And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

30 June

1754
Henry Fielding,
writer and lawyer

‘Nothing worth notice pass’d till that morning, when my poor wife, after passing a night in the utmost torments of the tooth-ach, resolved to have it drawn. I dispatched, therefore, a servant into Wapping, to bring, in haste, the best toothdrawer he could find. He soon found out a female of great eminence in the art; but when he brought her to the boat, at the water-side, they were informed that the ship was gone; for, indeed, she had set out a few minutes after his quitting her; nor did the pilot, who well knew the errand on which I had sent my servant, think fit to wait a moment for his return, or to give me any notice of his setting out.

But of all the petty bashaws, or turbulent tyrants I ever beheld, this sourfaced pilot was the worst tempered; for, during the time that he had the guidance of the ship, which was till we arrived in the Downs, he complied with no one’s desires, nor did he give a civil word, or, indeed, a civil look to any on board.

The toothdrawer, who, as I said before, was one of great eminence among her neighbours, refused to follow the ship; so that my man made himself the best of his way, and, with some difficulty, came up with us before we were got under full sail; for, after that, as we had both wind and tide with us, he would have found it impossible to overtake the ship, till she was come to an anchor at Gravesend.

The morning was fair and bright, and we had a passage thither, I think, as pleasant as can be conceived; for, take it with all its advantages, particularly the number of fine ships you are always sure of seeing by the way, there is nothing to equal it in all the rivers of the worid. The yards of Deptford and of Woolwich are noble sights; and give us a just idea of the great perfection to which we are arrived in building those floating castles, and the figure which we may always make in Europe among the other maritime powers. That of Woolwich, at least, very strongly imprinted this idea on my mind; for, there was now on the stocks there the Royal Anne, supposed to be the largest ship ever built, and which contains ten carriage guns more than had ever yet equipped a first rate. [. . .]

Besides the ships in the docks, we saw many on the water: the yachts are sights of great parade, and the. king’s body yacht is, I believe, unequalled in any country, for convenience as well as magnificence; both which are consulted in building and equipping her with the most exquisite art and workmanship.

We saw likewise several Indiamen just returned from their voyage. These are, I believe, the largest and finest vessels which are any where employed in commercial affairs. The colliers, likewise, which are very numerous, and even assemble in fleets, are ships of great bulk; and, if we descend to those used in the American, African, and European trades, and pass through those which visit our own coasts, to the small craft that ly between Chatham and the Tower, the whole forms a most pleasing object to the eye, as well as highly warming to the heart of an Englishman, who has any degree of love for his country, or can recognize any effect of the patriot in his constitution.

Lastly, the Royal Hospital of Greenwich, which presents so delightful a front to the water, and doth such honour at once to its builder and the nation, to the great skill and ingenuity of the one, and to the no less sensible gratitude of the other, very properly closes the account of this scene; which may well appear romantic to those who have not themselves seen, that, in this one instance, truth and reality are capable, perhaps, of exceeding the power of fiction. [. . .]

Sailing in the manner I have just mentioned, is a pleasure rather unknown, or unthought of, than rejected by those who have experienced it; unless, perhaps, the apprehension of danger, or sea-sickness, may be supposed, by the timorous and delicate, to make too large deductions. [. . .] This, however, was my present case; for the ease and lightness which I felt from my tapping, the gaiety of the morning, the pleasant sailing with wind and tide, and the many agreeable objects with which I was constantly entertained during the whole way, were all suppressed and overcome by the single consideration of my wife’s pain, which continued incessantly to torment her till we came to an anchor, when I dispatched a messenger in great haste, for the best reputed operator in Gravesend.

A surgeon of some eminence now appeared, who did not decline tooth-drawing, tho’ he certainly would have been offended with the appellation of tooth-drawer, no less than his brethren, the members of that venerable body, would be with that of barber, since the late separation between those long united companies, by which, if the surgeons have gained much, the barbers are supposed to have lost very little.

This able and careful person (for so I sincerely believe he is) after examining the guilty tooth, declared, that it was such a rotten shell, and so placed at the very remotest end of the upper jaw, where it was, in a manner, covered and secured by a large, fine, firm tooth, that he despaired of his power of drawing it. [. . .] I came over to his side, and assisted him in prevailing on my wife (for it was no easy matter) to resolve on keeping her tooth a little longer, and to apply to palliatives only for relief. These were opium applied to the tooth, and blisters behind the ears.’

Voyage to Lisbon

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1955
Evelyn Waugh,
writer

‘The television people came at 10 and stayed until 6.30. An excruciating day. They did not want a dialogue but a monologue. The whole thing is to be cut to five minutes in New York and shown at breakfast-time. They filmed everything including the poultry. The impresario kept producing notes from his pocket: ‘Mr Waugh, it is said here that you are irascible and reactionary. Will you please say something offensive?’ So I said: ‘The man who has brought this apparatus to my house asks me to be offensive. I am sorry to disappoint him.’ ‘Oh, Mr Waugh, please, that will never do. I have a reputation. You must alter that.’ I said later, not into the machine: ‘You expect rather a lot for $100.’ ‘Oh, I don’t think there is any question of payment.’ ’

Waugh’s appalling diaries

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1978
Philip Toynbee,
writer

‘Yesterday my worst depression for more than a year. Stirrings at lunchtime - always the worst of the day - carefully kept in order as we drove to Gloucester. But seeing Emily at Coney Hill, among those wrecks of old men and women, almost made me break down then and there: not at all the place for such a display. ‘Who are these?’ asked the black staff nurse. ‘These are my old master and mistress,’ said Em, proudly. ‘Your friends, Em!’ I said, knowing that this had to be said, but hearing the dreadful hollowness of those words. ‘One of the family,’ we used to say: and so did she. But also our hard-working paid servant: at the going rate.

By the time we got home I was weighed down by that heavy lassitude, that aching exhaustion which I used to know so well. I tried to meditate; but the effort was too great. I tried to pray, but all I could say was ‘Lord, have mercy, lord have mercy, lord have mercy, lord have mercy . . .’

Because I left off my anti-depressant pills? Perhaps it’s a foolish kind of pride to hate that dependance so much. Perhaps God also works through Ludomil. He certainly works through my wife, whose hand in mine is the only effective anti-depressant that I know.’

Toynbee and depression

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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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