And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

28 June

Henry Fielding,
writer and lawyer

‘By way of prevention, therefore, I this day sent for my friend Mr. Hunter, the great surgeon and anatomist of Covent-garden; and, though my belly was not yet very full and tight, let out ten quarts of water, the young sea-surgeon attending the operation, not as a performer, but as a student.

I was now eased of the greatest apprehension which I had from the length of the passage; and I told the captain, I was become indifferent as to the time of his sailing. He expressed much satisfaction in this declaration, and at hearing from me, that I found myself, since my tapping, much lighter and better. In this, I believe, he was sincere; for he was, as we shall have occasion to observe more than once, a very good-natured man; and as he was a very brave one too, I found that the heroic constancy, with which I had born an operation that is attended with scarce any degree of pain, had not a little raised me in his esteem. That he might adhere, therefore, in the most religious and rigorous manner to his word, he ordered his ship to fall down to Gravesend on Sunday morning, and there to wait his arrival.’

Voyage to Lisbon


Thomas Robert Malthus,

‘We were engaged to dine with Mr Ancher at half past 2, & to go to his brother’s in the evening. In the morning, walked up to the Castle with the daughter of the landlord of our Inn as an interpreter. She speaks french, is a little of a coquette, & is much celebrated in the neighbourhood for the gracefulness of her manners; but she has not much pretension to beauty. On account of her superior accomplishments she is admitted into the first circle at Christiania. Mr A praised her highly & said that she was one of their best actresses. They have private theatricals at Christiania as well as at Frederickshall, & Mr A himself often takes a principal part - sometimes indeed that of author as well as actor. He told us of a tragedy that he had written on the subject of the death of Major Andre, which he performed before the Prince Royal, playing himself the part of the Major. The Prince, he told us, was highly pleased.’

The cost of men and food


Benjamin Haydon,

‘Dined at Kemble’s farewell dinner [the actor John Philip Kemble had played his last stage role, Corialanus, a few days earlier, his retirement having been hastened, perhaps, by the rise in popularity of Edmund Kean]. A more complete farce was never acted. Many, I daresay, regretted his leaving us, but the affectations of all parties disgusted me. The Drury Lane actors flattering the Covent Garden, the Covent Garden flattered in turn the Drury Lane. Lord Holland flattered Kemble; Kemble flattered Lord Holland. [. . .] Anyone would have thought that the English Stage had taken its origin from Kemble - Garrick was never mentioned - when all that Kemble has done for it has been to improve the costume. Yet Kemble is really & truly the Hero of all ranting; all second rate ability find it much easier to imitate his droning regularity than the furious impulses of Kean, who cannot point out when they come or why, but is an organ for Nature, when she takes it in her head to play on him.’

Thirst after grandeur


Francis Lieber,
philosopher and teacher

‘With Rouquette to the British Museum; meagre, with the exception of the Elgin marbles. What a delight to see these! . . .’

Lieber’s Life and Letters


Queen Victoria

‘I was awoke at four o’clock by the guns in the Park, and could not get much sleep afterwards on account of the noise of the people, bands, etc., etc. Got up at seven, feeling strong and well; the Park presented a curious spectacle, crowds of people up to Constitution Hill, soldiers, bands, etc. I dressed, having taken a little breakfast before I dressed, and a little after. At half-past 9 I went into the next room, dressed exactly in my House of Lords costume; and met Uncle Ernest, Charles, and Feodore (who had come a few minutes before into my dressing-room), Lady Lansdowne, Lady Normanby, the Duchess of Sutherland, and Lady Barham, all in their robes.

At 10 I got into the State Coach with the Duchess of Sutherland and Lord Albemarle and we began our Progress. I subjoin a minute account of the whole Procession and of the whole Proceeding, the route, etc. It was a fine day, and the crowds of people exceeded what I have ever seen; many as there were the day I went to the City, it was nothing, nothing to the multitudes, the millions of my loyal subjects, who were assembled in every spot to witness the Procession. Their good humour and excessive loyalty was beyond everything, and I really cannot say how proud I feel to be the Queen of such a Nation. I was alarmed at times for fear that the people would be crushed and squeezed on account of the tremendous rush and pressure.

I reached the Abbey amid deafening cheers at a little after half-past eleven; I first went into a robing-room quite close to the entrance where I found my eight train-bearers: . . . all dressed alike and beautifully in white satin and silver tissue with wreaths of silver corn-ears in front, and a small one of pink roses round the plait behind, and pink roses in the trimming of the dresses.

After putting on my mantle, and the young ladies having properly got hold of it and Lord Conyngham holding the end of it, I left the robing-room and the Procession began as is described in the annexed account, and all that followed and took place. The sight was splendid; the bank of Peeresses quite beautiful all in their robes, and the Peers on the other side. My young train-bearers were always near me, and helped me whenever I wanted anything. The Bishop of Durham stood on the side near me, but he was, as Lord Melbourne told me, remarkably maladroit, and never could tell me what was to take place.

At the beginning of the Anthem, where I’ve made a mark, I retired to St Edward’s Chapel, a dark small place immediately behind the Altar, with my ladies and train-bearers, took off my crimson robe and kirtle, and put on the supertunica of cloth of gold, also in the shape of a kirtle, which was put over a singular sort of little gown of linen trimmed with lace; I also took off my circlet of diamonds and then proceeded bareheaded into the Abbey; I was then seated upon St Edward’s chair, where the Dalmatic robe was clasped round me by the Lord Great Chamberlain. Then followed all the various things; and last (of those things) the Crown being placed on my head which was, I must own, a most beautiful impressive moment; all the Peers and Peeresses put on their coronets at the same instant.

My excellent Lord Melbourne, who stood very close to me throughout the whole ceremony, was completely overcome at this moment, and very much affected; he gave me such a kind, and I may say fatherly look. The shouts, which were very great, the drums, the trumpets, the firing of the guns, all at the same instant, rendered the spectacle most imposing.

The Enthronisation and the Homage of, first, all the Bishops, and then my Uncles, and lastly of all the Peers, in their respective order was very fine. The Duke of Norfolk (holding for me the Sceptre with a Cross) with Lord Melbourne stood close to me on my right, and the Duke of Richmond with the other Sceptre on my left, etc., etc. All my train-bearers, etc., standing behind the Throne. Poor old Lord Rolle, who is 82, and dreadfully infirm, in attempting to ascend the steps fell and rolled quite down, but was not the least hurt; when he attempted to re-ascend them I got up and advanced to the end of the steps, in order to prevent another fall. When Lord Melbourne’s turn to do Homage came, there was loud cheering; they also cheered Lord Grey and the Duke of Wellington; it’s a pretty ceremony; they first all touch the Crown, and then kiss my hand. When my good Lord Melbourne knelt down and kissed my hand, he pressed my hand and I grasped his with all my heart, at which he looked up with his eyes filled with tears and seemed much touched, as he was, I observed, throughout the whole ceremony. After the Homage was concluded I left the Throne, took off my Crown and received the Sacrament; I then put on my Crown again, and re-ascended the Throne, leaning on Lord Melbourne’s arm. At the commencement of the Anthem I descended from the Throne, and went into St Edward’s Chapel with my Ladies, Train-bearers, and Lord Willoughby, where I took off the Dalmatic robe, supertunica, etc., and put on the Purple Velvet Kirtle and Mantle, and proceeded again to the Throne, which I ascended leaning on Lord Melbourne’s hand. . .

At eight we dined. Besides we thirteen - my Uncles, sister, brother, Spaeth, and the Duke’s gentlemen - my excellent Lord Melbourne and Lord Surrey dined here. Lord Melbourne came up to me and said: “I must congratulate you on this most brilliant day,” and that all had gone off so well. He said he was not tired, and was in high spirits. I sat between Uncle Ernest and Lord Melbourne; and Lord Melbourne between me and Feodore, whom he had led in. My kind Lord Melbourne was much affected in speaking of the whole ceremony. He asked kindly if I was tired; said the Sword he carried (the first, the Sword of State) was excessively heavy. I said that the Crown hurt me a good deal. . .

Stayed in the dining room till twenty minutes past eleven, but remained on Mamma’s balcony looking at the fireworks in Green Park, which were quite beautiful.’

The crown hurt me


Giacomo Meyerbeer,

‘The proposal by Herr von Korff for the hand of my daughter, and the manner in which Blanca responded to this news, preoccupied me to such an extent that I was incapable of any musical work.’

Showered with flowers


Simon Newcomb,

‘Spent the forenoon in getting our provisions and equipment for the trip. Cost, including wages, [£]260. Started for Cumberland House at 3 1/2 p.m. in Sir George Simpson’s North canoe. Encamped at sunset, near the house of Peguis, Indian chief after whom we named our camp. Canoe still leaking. Comet fainter.’

Crossed a singular slough


Thomas Hardy,

‘To Clifton with Miss Gifford.’

White phantoms, cloven tongues


Nicholas II,

‘Yesterday we lost 3,000 troops and about 30 vehicles. Word of God! The weather became cloudy and warm. After my walk I gave a history lesson to Alexis. We worked out there again and cut down three fir trees. After tea and until dinner I read.’

Hope remains above all


William Soutar,

‘Just realised to-day that it was round about this time, 10 years ago, when I was Mercer’s age (24) [Soutar’s cousin] that the pains and stiffness in my back began. We were on holiday at Montrose. When I look at Mercer I can scarcely accept the fact that my youth was actually dying then. Seeing him walking about in my clothes - I sometimes wonder what strange necessity brought about the humiliation of my body. Man must look for a reason, and when he has lost his old gods must peer into himself. It is not self-compliment to surmise that one had to sacrifice one’s body to make a self.’

My hungry hound


Giovannino Guareschi,

‘It is pouring rain; the camp is a sea of mud, and the dripping huts look like old boats rotting in some forgotten harbor. The shirts and shorts hung up to dry on a wire in front of the hut hang limp, like a charwoman’s rags.

In these parts hanging up the laundry is a futile act of faith. The weather is just as unstable as the temper of the rags called men, who are supposed to be drying out after immersion in the purifying bath of sorrow. After a brief moment of calm, they have sunk into a mood of complaint and gloom, of doubt, fear and resentment. It is just as futile an act of faith to believe in their spiritual resurrection.

The rain has ceased, and men are streaming outdoors. The camp is studded with puddles, and in them is mirrored the hopeless failure of the Italian middle class, clad in rags and pettiness.’

A thousand pieces


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And so made significant . . .
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Notes and Cautions
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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The Diary Review, hosted by Blogger, publishes magazine-style articles on diaries and diarists, several times a week. Now over ten years old, The Diary Review is the secondary source for the extracts in this online anthology.