And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

25 March

1657
Ralph Josselin,
priest and farmer

‘When I come to view my estate this yeare, I find my expenses far deeper then divers yeares formerly, and my receipts more then ever, God bee blessed. Last year my estate was about 670l. I find I have about 590l. and I have pd for land to Mr Butcher 150l. and to Mr Weale 85l. which is in whole 235l. so yt I have had a great increase this yeare of 145l. or yr abouts, with the life & health of my family, no trouble in my estate; the Lords love in Christ is my life and joy. I have received in to my hand Mrs Maries land on which I am out 108l. 9s. This yeare 1657 is like to bee a boisterous yeare in the world.’

A boisterous yeare

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1687
John Evelyn,
writer

‘Good Friday. Dr. Tenison preached at St. Martin’s, on 1 Peter ii. 24. During the service, a man came into near the middle of the church, with his sword drawn, with several others in that posture; in this jealous time it put the congregation into great confusion; but it appeared to be one who fled for sanctuary being pursued by bailiffs.’

Modesty, prudence, piety

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1763
James Boswell,
writer

‘As I was coming home this night, I felt carnal inclinations raging through my frame. I determined to gratify them. I went to St James’s Park, and, like Sir John Brute [a character from John Vanbrugh’s The Provoked Wife], picked up a whore. For the first time did I engage in armour, which I found but a dull satisfaction. She who submitted to my lusty embraces was a young Shropshire girl, only seventeen, very well-looked, her name Elizabeth Parker. Poor thing, she has a sad time of it!’

Young Boswell in London

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1869
William Howard Russell,
journalist

‘The Royal party started at 9am, and ran down by rail to the pier, where the works of the Canal Company are being carried forward - a large dock, 420 feet long, being already completed. They went on board an English tug, and steamed round the Mole and as far up the Canal as they could. M de Lesseps, M Borel, and M La Pousse, who were of the party, explained the object of the principal works. The party returned in the tug at 10.30 to the Hotel to breakfast. At 11.30 they left and entered the special train for Ismailia; guards of honour turned out, military bands playing, salutes fired, and all Egyptian and European officials attending their Royal Highnesses to the carriages at the station.

The train arrived at Chalouf in about half-an-hour, where all alighted, and crossing the Sweetwater Canal on a ferry-platform, proceeded along the banks of the Maritime Canal for about two miles, the Princess and Mrs Grey in a pony-carriage with M de Lesseps, the rest on horses.

There is a deep cutting here, in which camels, asses, mules, and men are busily engaged removing the sand and debris. The Timsah lake and the other finished sections do not strike one so forcibly as the aspect of the uncompleted labours of the workmen. The parts of the Canal already fit for traffic have not very much to attract one in the way of sight-seeing. Labour shuns the work it has done; but here we can inspect the nature of the task which was set for those who grappled with the undertaking at the beginning.

The inspection lasted an hour; then the party continued the journey in the train, and at 1pm got out by the banks of the old Sweetwater Canal, where two small steam launches were waiting. They went on to Serapeum, where they were met on landing by Mme Charles de Lesseps, Mme and Mdlle Guichard, Mme Borel, Mdlle Voisin, M Lavalley, and others. They walked through the little town which is springing up here, to the Maritime Canal, where they embarked in steam launches, and started for the Great Dam, through the sluices of which the Mediterranean is being let into the Bitter Lakes.

The scene before us was full of life and animation. Down at our feet a very Babel was at work - men loading the animals from the deep pits in which they were toiling, to a wild accompaniment of sounds, in which the moaning roars of the camel and the braying of donkeys rose above the cries of the workmen. The asses, poor little brutes, go in strings up and down the cutting at a quick step. The camel, on the contrary, paces up and down the declivities with immense gravity and aplomb. The ass stands whilst the Arabs are filling the sacks on his back. The camel kneels. The engineers calculate that a camel will carry one-fifth of a cubic metre of sand, and that he is only able to do the work of two asses, pompous and pretentious as he is.

Having inspected the Dam and the vast space to be inundated, some of the sluices were raised, to let in the water, which rushed rapidly into the bed of the Bitter Lakes; and the party having enjoyed the sight embarked, proceeded by the Canal to Lake Timsah (which they entered at 5.15pm), and reached Ismailia by 6 o’clock. At the landing-place there was a triumphal arch erected, and a crowd of all the colonists and troops lining the road. The Prince and Princess got into basket-carriages with large flat wheels and four horses - the rest of the party on horseback - and were escorted through the principal thoroughfares by a respectful cavalcade.

If the Suez Canal never produced any greater result, such an extraordinary city would be a remarkable development. Every one who takes the smallest interest in what is going on outside the limits of these islands, knows something about the general plan of the Suez Canal, but without a personal visit it is impossible to conceive how wonderful this little city really is. On the borders of the newly-created Lake, there lie stretched out magazines, storehouses, cafes, restaurants, boulevards, church, cemetery, set in a border of bright verdure fresh and blooming. The limits are sand and rock, the veritable Desert itself. Wood can be worked by Egyptian carpenters and French designers into pretty and fanciful outsides, and the necessity of procuring as much air as possible, and of keeping out sunshine and dust, conspire to the production of such fantastic contrivances in architecture, that, on the whole, the chalets are like nothing that I have ever seen. And then the gardens, where there are growing in their newly-found homes the banana, the orange, the cactus, and tropical plants in great abundance, form a charming ornament, and contribute to the light and graceful aspect of the town. Indeed, the houses on the Esplanade, facing the Sweetwater Canal, and looking out upon Lake Timsah and the water front, put one in mind of an exquisite bit of scenery on the stage, or one of those elaborate toys, in detached pieces, got up by cunning workmen for the amusement of the children of the great. The city has all the Desert around it to expatiate upon, and no one can say to what extent it may reach. On the map, its well-defined lines, with broad squares and streets, stretching out into mathematical points, which have no parts, look almost too grandiose. All of this - the town, the people who inhabit it, the trees, the grass - depend on one work - the Sweetwater Canal. Dry up that, and they wither and die. . .’

Happy birthday Suez Canal

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1909
William Butler Yeats,
writer

‘May 25th. At Stratford-on-Avon “The Playboy” shocked a good many people, because it was a self-improving, self-educating audience, and that means a perverted and common-place audience. If you set out to educate yourself you are compelled to have an ideal, a model of what you would be; and if you are not a man of genius, your model will be common-place and prevent the natural impulses of the mind, its natural reverence, desire, hope, admiration, always half unconscious, almost bodily. That is why a simple round of religious duties, things that escape the intellect, is often so much better than its substitute, self-improvement.’

The poet’s labour

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1950
Cesare Pavese,
writer

‘One does not kill oneself for love of a woman, but because love - any love- reveals us in our nakedness, our misery, our vulnerability, our nothingness.’

I won’t write any more

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1969
Mohammed Ayub Khan,
soldier and politician

‘Recorded my speech to the nation explaining why it was necessary for me to step aside.’

Diaries of a Pakistan leader

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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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