And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

26 March

John Evelyn,

‘After an extraordinary storm, there came up the Thames a whale which was fifty-six feet long. Such, and a larger of the spout kind, was killed there forty years ago (June 1658). That year died Cromwell.’

A most excellent person


Timothy Burrell,

‘Two bushels of wheat which I sent to John Sturt the miller, weighed 124lbs sack and all; there were brought back 111lbs, so that 13lbs were wanting.

To John Lord, to buy stockings, 1s 6d; for 2 neck-cloths, 4s 6d; breeches and drink, 5s.

I pay’d the saddler for John Coachman falling drunk of his box, when he was driving to Glynde, in part of his wages, £1 7s 6d.’

Dr Fuller’s infusion


William Howard Russell,

‘The Suez Canal is not made. There is a considerable amount of work still to be done. But the conception of M de Lesseps is raised out of the limbo of possibilities. The project for the junction of two seas is already in a condition to admit of a probability that the remaining part, being the easier portion, will be completed by the 11th of October.* The commercial success can only be determined by the experience of a term of years after the canal has been opened. No opinion can be safely offered on the point. If the route be conducive to the interests of commerce, no national jealousies or private interests can prevent its stream flowing through the canal at a great profit to the shareholders. The freight which the Company proposes to charge is at the rate of 10f a ton transit duty on all actual cargo, excluding provisions for the crew, dead weight, stores, &c; and the sum saved on a voyage to the East Indies would be equivalent to the total insurance on the ship, without counting the time saved, cost of the crew in food and wages, and wear and tear of material. It may be said, and with some truth, that it is too early for any speculation until the canal is open; but it is not too early to remark how complete has been the failure of sinister prophecies.’ [* The footnote reads: ‘The opening, as the world knows, is now fixed for 17th November.’]

Happy birthday Suez Canal


Dorothy Mackellar,

‘Lay and read Ailsa Paige and thought of ideas for plays . . . Norman Pilcher came to supper I don’t know if we are getting into deep water or not, but I rather suspect it. He stayed very late.’

I love a sunburnt country


Kathleen Scott,

‘I think the way you pay for even falling in love with someone other than your mate is that it lessens and weakens the pleasure you take in your mate, and therefore maybe my natural self protection of my hedonism would prevent [my] succumbing to the ephemeral attractions of beautiful young creatures who encircle one with flattery and cajolery.’

Kathleen Scott as diarist


Anthony Eden,

‘Only thing Hitler wants is Air Pact without limitation. Simon much inclined to bite at this, and to suggest separate conference on this. I had to protest and he gave up the idea. Total result of visit for European settlement very disappointing. Simon toys with idea of letting G. expand eastwards. I am strongly against it. Apart from its dishonesty it would be our turn next.

The 1st Earl of Avon


Brian Boydell,

‘… After lunch, we put the hood down on the car for the first time this year, and went off to Blessington. I spent the afternoon spinning for trout with the new threadline outfit, which I am beginning to master ...

Wolfram and Ingrid Hentschel and Rory Childers came for the gramophone evening. We played Bach Suite no. 3, and had a great deal of argument about speeds and appoggiaturas. Then Prokofiev Violin Concerto no. 2 - which didn’t impress Wolfram very much on first hearing. We then talked a good deal about romanticism, conductors, theosophy, etc., etc. After tea we played my Feather of Death and In Memoriam M. Gandhi - they were particularly impressed by the latter. We finished up with Bloch’s Second [String] Quartet which I enjoyed better than ever before. Everyone was very excited by it. I am becoming increasingly convinced that it is one of the masterpieces of our time.’

Rebellious ferment


Aaron Copland,

‘Visits from Soviet literature paper, Gregory Schneerson, and Mr. Leonidoff of N.Y.C. ballet. Lunch at the residence of the Indian Ambassador Mr. [K.P.S.] Menon. Visit to the Conservatory. Instead of students we were met by a group of professors, including Shaporin. We heard a talented oratorio by a young man called Albert [sic] Schnittke entitled Nagasaki. This allowed him a few grave dissonances (like the Hollywood writers might allow themselves with similar material). Also heard part of a ballet The Hunchback by S[h]chedrin and a Sinfoniett by Karamanov, neither of which were in any way interesting. A short discussion followed in which I suggested that Russian composers knew too well what style to work in. Disturbed reaction on the part of our listeners. I told them that listening to typical Russian music exclusively it would be hard for me to imagine all the other existing styles of contemporary music. In the evening a service intim[é] chez Shostakovitch. His wife and son Maxime, Kabalevsky and Khrennikov and their wives were there. (When I told Mrs. Khren[nikov] that she looked Scotch she replied: oh no, I’m Jewish.) Purely social evening - few toasts and Shostie in a relaxed and charming mood. Big and generous spread of food (all familiar items at our hotel) with shouts of Maxime (who looks at 20 like a young French intellectual) down the length of the table. I watched Shostie while Lukas and Kabalevsky played a Haydn Symphony 4 hands. He loves music with a kind of innocent joy I have rarely seen in a famous composer. Music must have been a great solace to him in the tough days. Much excitement about a chess tournament whose results were announced over the air. I was persuaded to play my Piano Sonata. At the end they all 3 said “Spasibo” (“thank you”) with no comment of any kind.’

Copland watches Shostie


Sutan Sjahrir,

‘I myself learned many big lessons from the general elections, so that later . . . I agreed that we should move back to the Constitution of 1945, in which certainly the position of the Executive is pushed forward and takes on a quality of leadership that rather surpasses that of the day-to-day powers of Parliament, [but] which also gives the Executive enough space and time to work. As is the case with the US Constitution, the [Indonesian] Constitution of 1945 is succinct enough to be perfected later in accordance with further experiences. . . It appears that Feith did not think about this, as his book bears a title “The Decline of Constitutional Democracy in Indonesia.” ’

Indonesia’s first prime minister


Mohammed Ayub Khan,
soldier and politician

‘Invited the members of cabinet and explained why I had resigned. It was quite obvious that the politicians are hell bent on disrupting the country, and besides, economic life was coming to a halt. Workers and even government officials had said goodbye to discipline. In any case, I could not sit on the dissolution of Pakistan by lawful or unlawful means. As a result of my resignation the governors, ministers etc. stand dismissed. I told someone jokingly that as a real general election had taken place I can see a leader for two governments in Pakistan will change [...]. I can’t see any politician of national outlook or stature rise for a long time to come. Besides democratic methods are foreign to our people.’

Diaries of a Pakistan leader


Alasdair Maclean,

‘I am now well into 1970 with my editing task. Another month, at most, should see me finished. As well, too, for I grow very short of money. I must look to the future now. I must consider what may happen when the last shilling goes and I have to leave here.

If I were sure of being able to support myself with my pen I should not care so much. But freelance writing is such a precarious and at times degrading way of earning a living. Constantly a buttering up of editors, constantly a hinting at commissions. And constantly, too, looking out for the postman, with his good news or his bad news and constantly waiting for a cheque that may or may not be coming or may be coming when someone in an office somewhere gets around to sending it.

I have had my share of all that in the past and am none too keen on going through it again. It is hardly even that the freelance is doing what he wants to do or is doing something at least closely related to his vocation. Very often he isn’t.

Yet a small voice inside me says, ‘Still it is better than working.’ Perhaps so. I have had my share, too, of soul-destroying jobs and know what they can do to one. Nevertheless I have taken the precaution of pulling the one or two gossamery strings I yet hold, to see if I cannot arrange for employment of some kind in Kirkcaldy, where I lived before and where I know people. I should get on faster if I were better able to transfer my written notes to typescript. The typewriter is a hateful machine. I had rather have the toothache than change a ribbon. And I have coined a new definition of Sod’s Law: ‘When two typewriter keys are struck at once the one that gets to the paper first is never the one that is wanted.’

An antiphonal chorus


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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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