And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

1 May

1616
Lady Anne Clifford,
landowner

‘At this time my Lord was in London where he had infinite and great resort coming to him. He went much abroad to Cocking, to bowling alleys, to plays and horse races, and [was] commended by all the world. I stayed in the country, having many times a sorrowful and heavy heart, and being condemned by most folks because I would not consent to the agreements, so as I may truly say I am like an owl in the desert.’

An owl in the desert

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1683
John Evelyn,
writer

‘I went to Blackheath, to see the new fair, being the first procured by the Lord Dartmouth. This was the first day, pretended for the sale of cattle, but I think in truth to enrich the new tavern at the bowling-green, erected by Snape, his Majesty’s farrier, a man full of projects. There appeared nothing but an innumerable assembly of drinking people from London, peddlars, etc., and I suppose it too near London to be of any great use to the country.’

A most excellent person

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1826
David Douglas,
scientist

‘This morning our fire that was kindled on the snow had sunk into a hole 6 feet deep, making a natural kitchen. Minimum heat 2°, maximum 44°, on the highest part of the big hill. Started at daybreak, finding the snow deeper and the trees gradually diminish towards the summit; laborious to ascend. Went frequently off the path in consequence of not seeing the marks on the trees, being covered with the snow. Reached the top at ten, three miles, where we made a short stay to rest. Course north-east. Descended in the same direction and came on the river which we left two days before. Passed in the valley two small level spots clear of wood and one low point of wood of small trees, Pinus nigra and P. Banksiana, where we camped at midday, being unable to proceed further from the deep soft snow. Progress seven miles. Mr. E. killed on the height of land a most beautiful male partridge, a curious species; small; neck and breast jet black; back of a lighter hue; belly and under the tail grey, mottled with pure white; beak black; above the eye bright scarlet, which it raises on each side of the head, screening the few feathers on the crown; resembles a small well-crested domesticated fowl; leaves of Pinus nigra in the crop. This is the sort of bird mentioned to me by Mr. McLeod as inhabiting the higher parts of Peace and Smoky Rivers. This, however, is not so large as described. Perhaps there may be two varieties. Said also to be found in Western Caledonia. This being the first I have seen, could not resist the temptation of preserving it, although mutilated in the legs and in any circumstances little chance of being able to carry it, let alone being in a good state. The flesh of the partridge remarkably tender when new killed, like game that has been killed several days; instead of being white, of a darkish cast. After breakfast at one o’clock, being as I conceive on the highest part of the route, I became desirous of ascending one of the peaks, and accordingly I set out alone on snowshoes to that on the left hand or west side, being to all appearance the highest. The labour of ascending the lower part, which is covered with pines, is great beyond description, sinking on many occasions to the middle. Half-way up vegetation ceases entirely, not so much as a vestige of moss or lichen on the stones. Here I found it less laborious as I walked on the hard crust. One-third from the summit it becomes a mountain of pure ice, sealed far over by Nature’s hand as a momentous work of Nature’s God. The height from its base may be about 5500 feet: timber, 2750 feet; a few mosses and lichen, 500 more; 1000 feet of perpetual snow; the remainder, towards the top 1250, as I have said, glacier with a thin covering of snow on it. The ascent took me five hours; descending only one and a quarter. Places where the descent was gradual, I tied my shoes together, making them carry me in turn as a sledge. Sometimes I came down at one spell 500 to 700 feet in the space of one minute and a half. I remained twenty minutes, my thermometer standing at 18°; night closing fast in on me, and no means of fire, I was reluctantly forced to descend. The sensation I felt is beyond what I can give utterance to. Nothing, as far as the eye could perceive, but mountains such as I was on, and many higher, some rugged beyond any description, striking the mind with horror blended with a sense of the wondrous works of the Almighty. The aerial tints of the snow, the heavenly azure of the solid glaciers, the rainbow-like hues of their thin broken fragments, the huge mossy icicles hanging from the perpendicular rocks with the snow sliding from the steep southern rocks with amazing velocity, producing a crash and grumbling like the shock of an earthquake, the echo of which resounding in the valley for several minutes. On the rocks of the wood were Menziesia caerulea; Andromeda hypnoides; Lycopodium alpinum; L. sp. unknown to me; dead stems of Gentiana nivalis; Epilobium sp., small; Salix herbacea; Empetrum nigrum, fruit in a good state of preservation underneath the snow; Juncus triglumis; J. biglumis, with a few Musci, Jungermanniae and lichens.’

Plant hunting in America

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1851
Queen Victoria

‘This day is one of the greatest and most glorious days of our lives, with which, to my pride and joy the name of my dearly beloved Albert is forever associated! It is a day which makes my heart swell with thankfulness ... The Park presented a wonderful spectacle, crowds streaming though it - carriages and troops passing, quite like the Coronation Day, and for me, the same anxiety. The day was bright, and all bustle and excitement. At half past 11, the whole procession in 9 state carriages was set in motion. Vicky and Bertie were in our carriage. Vicky was dressed in lace over white satin, with a small wreath of pink wild roses, in her hair, and looked very nice. Bertie was in full Highland dress. The Green Park and Hyde Park were one mass of densely crowded human beings, in the highest good humour and most enthusiastic. I never saw Hyde Park look as it did, being filled with crowds as far as the eye could reach. A little rain fell, just as we started; but before we neared the Crystal Palace, the sun shone and gleamed upon the gigantic edifice, upon which the flags of every nation were flying.

We drove up Rotten Row and got out of our carriages at the entrance on that side. The glimpse through the iron gates of the Transept, the moving palms and flowers, the myriads of people filling the galleries and seats around, together with the flourish of trumpets, as we entered the building, gave a sensation I shall never forget, and I felt much moved ... In a few seconds we proceeded, Albert leading me having Vicky at his hand, and Bertie holding mine. The sight as we came to the centre where the steps and chair (on which I did not sit) was placed, facing the beautiful crystal fountain was magic and impressive. The tremendous cheering, the joy expressed in every face, the vastness of the building, with all its decorations and exhibits, the sound of the organ (with 200 instruments and 600 voices, which seemed nothing), and my beloved Husband the creator of this great ‘Peace Festival’, uniting the industry and arts of all nations of the earth, all this, was indeed moving, and a day to live forever. God bless my dearest Albert, and my dear Country which has shown itself so great today ... The Nave was full of people, which had not been intended and deafening cheers and waving of handkerchiefs, continued the whole time of our long walk from one end of the building, to the other. Every face was bright, and smiling, and many even had tears in their eyes ... One could of course see nothing, but what was high up in the Nave, and nothing in the Courts. The organs were but little heard, but the Military Band, at one end, had a very fine effect ...

We returned to our place and Albert told Lord Breadalbane to declare the Exhibition opened, which he did in a loud voice saying “Her Majesty commands me to declare the Exhibition opened”, when there was a flourish of trumpets, followed by immense cheering. Everyone was astounded and delighted. The return was equally satisfactory - the crowd most enthusiastic and perfect order kept. We reached the Palace at 20 minutes past 1 and went out on the balcony, being loudly cheered. That we felt happy and thankful, - I need not say - proud of all that had passed and of my beloved one’s success. Dearest Albert’s name is for ever immortalised and the absurd reports of dangers of every kind and sort, set about by a set of people, - the ‘soi-disant’ fashionables and the most violent protectionists - are silenced. It is therefore doubly satisfactory that all should have gone off so well, and without the slightest accident or mishap.’

The Great Exhibition

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1859
Charlotte Grimké,
teacher and anti-slavery campaigner

‘A beautiful May-day. - One of the loveliest I’ve ever seen. Had a delightful drive through the country to Attleborough. The trees are perfectly beautiful - in full bloom. The grass is green, the birds as mirthful, the sky as cloudless, and the air as warm as in summer. Had a pleasant day at the C.’s delightful place. Am almost as deeply in love with Sallie C. ad G. is. She is a dear, warm-hearted girl! Saw some perfect violets.’

A free black female

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1885
Rudyard Kipling,
writer

‘On the road to Kotgur. May day at Mahasu inexpressibly lovely. Lay on the grass and felt health coming back, again. De brath a delightful man. What a blessed luxury is idleness. Eagles and shot at bottles.’

Something of myself

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1930
Virginia Woolf,
writer

‘And I have completely ruined my morning. Yes that is literally true. They sent me a book from The Times, as if advised by Heaven of my liberty; and feeling my liberty wild upon me, I rushed to the cable and told Van Doren I would write on Scott. And now having read Scott, or the editor whom Hugh provides, I won’t and can’t; and have got into a fret trying to read it, and writing to Richmond to say I can’t: have wasted the brilliant first of May which makes my skylight blue and gold; have only a rubbish heap in my head; can’t read and can’t write and can’t think. The truth is, of course, I want to be back at The Waves. Yes that is the truth. Unlike all that I begin to re-write it, or conceive it again with ardour, directly I have done it. I begin to see what I had in my mind; and want to begin cutting out masses of irrelevance and clearing, sharpening and making the good phrases shine. One wave after another. No room. And so on. But then we are going touring in Devon and Cornwall on Sunday, which means a week off; and then I shall perhaps make my critical brain do a month’s work for exercise. What could it be set to? Or a story? - no, not another story now . . .’

One wave after another

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1951
Kenneth Rose,
historian and writer

‘Conversation with Leo Amery [retired Conservative politician] in Eaton Square about Curzon. Amery saw little of him before World War I when the university was appealing for a large fund. Curzon was Chairman of the committee, and asked all its members to write begging letters to friends. Two or three weeks later he summoned them again, and like a schoolmaster asked each person in turn how many they had written. One replied three, another two, etc. And Amery was proud at having sent twenty (dictated) letters. Curzon looked round the committee in scorn. ‘I have written 3,000 letters,’ he said, ‘and all in my own hand!’

Curzon played a great part in bringing about conscription, but by the time he became Foreign Secretary in October 1919 he had lost his grip, and could only argue or write memoranda, never taking bold and immediate action.

Amery was a Secretary to Cabinet Committees. First Cabinet he ever attended was in December 1916. Curzon cleared his throat and began, ‘You may not be aware . . .’. At this point he was interrupted by Balfour. ‘It’s all right, George, we all know you have written a monumental work on Persia!’

In the Conservative Party, Curzon was mistrusted, e.g. House of Lords reform. Amery wanted Asquith to make extra peers and so be forced to reform compositions of the second chamber. But Curzon wanted exclusive H of Lords. In coalition from 1919 to 1922, the government was really in the hands of four men - Winston, Lloyd George, F.E. Smith and Austen Chamberlain. Curzon was rather out of it, and so felt no doubts about leaving coalition in 1922.

Amery related the important part he played in choice of Baldwin as PM in 1923. Amery had gone skiing and met Bonar Law passing through Paris on his return. Amery was told by Bonar Law that he must shortly resign premiership [owing to ill health]. Back in London as First Lord of the Admiralty, Amery was visited by Bridgeman, who had just seen Salisbury. Bridgman told Amery that Curzon was definitely to be PM. This was not unexpected as Curzon had been presiding over Cabinets in absence of B.L. (although B.L. would have preferred Cave to do so). Amery did not think Curzon suitable on personal grounds as PM. He went round to see Salisbury, who confessed that he had not previously thought that any alternative to Curzon was possible. But eventually he agreed to accepting Baldwin. Amery and Bridgeman immediately went round to Stamfordham’s house: he was already on way to Palace. They caught up with him in St James’s Park. There, standing for about twenty minutes, they convinced Stamfordham, and Curzon’s fate was sealed. Later that day Balfour arrived and suggested that Curzon being a peer should be offered as reason for choice of Baldwin: real reason was Curzon’s domineering temperament. Unfortunately, Stamfordham sent a clumsily worded telegram to Curzon, which caused him much unnecessary distress. Curzon was wonderfully magnanimous to Baldwin. Also to Amery, who had thought it his duty to deny Curzon’s greatest ambition.’

Curzon’s fate was sealed

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1953
Salvador Dali,
artist

‘I spent the winter in New York as usual, enjoying enormous success in everything I did. We have been in Port Ligat a month, and today, on the same date as last year, I decide to resume my diary. I inaugurate the Dalinian May the first by working frenetically, as I am urged to do by a sweet creative anguish. My moustache has never been so long. My entire body is encased in my clothing. Only my moustache shows.’

Rhinoceros, who are you?

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1982
Peter Green,
sailor

‘0700-0900 Vulcans bomb Stanley airport.
1040 Action stations
1043 2 Mirage 230° - 95 miles
1044 launched 2 SHAR
1057 CAP
1106 Air Yellow
1135 Exocet released 260° - 100 miles
1142 The Exocet reaches its maximum range without doing any damage to us
1216 Air yellow
1300 270° closing fast enemy
1304 Mix up - friendly helicopters
1308 Air yellow
1325 Super Entendards 245° - 180 miles outward bound
1410 Air red; during this time YARMOUTH and BRILLIANT are to the North of East Falkland doing an ASW whilst ARROW, ALACRITY and GLAMORGAN are to the South of the Islands doing an NGS.
1412 235° - 130 miles
1425 Air yellow
1500 Air red 200° - 200 miles
1543 Splashed one aircraft, two dropped their bombs and scattered
1557 245° - 100 miles
1612 240° - 26 miles
1613 Airborne engagement
1739 275° - 100 miles
1811 Action mortar
1820 Bearing 188° torpedo HE
1832 Mortar fired
1845 Mortar fired
1847 Mortar fired
1915 Periscope sighted
1940 One Mirage ditches
1953 150° - 9 miles patrol boats
1956 Surface red
2008 3 Canberras in the area
2011 Depth charges dropped
2100 Action mortar
2123 Mortar fired
2123 Air yellow
2153 Fall out - our first day at war.’

Falklands War diaries

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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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Any author, publisher or other copyright holder who takes the view that I am unacceptably breaching their copyright please let me know. I have tried to remain sensitive to copyright rules (using far fewer quotes, for example, when a book, by an author still alive, remains in print and popular), but it is not practical for me to seek authorisation for every quote and article, since I maintain these websites without any funding or advertis-ing. I take the view that publicity for the source books is a quid pro quo for my use of the extracts, but I am more than happy to remove the extracts if asked.

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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.