And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

2 May

Gideon Mantell,
doctor and fossil hunter

‘Received a copy of my Geology of the S. East of England from the publishers and am much pleased with the style in which it is brought out. Received on Sunday a beautiful present of polished fossil woods from Dr Henry of Manchester. Yesterday sent a parcel to London - wrote to Earl of Egremont, on behalf of poor Archer the artist, whose painting of the King’s visit to Lewes, is still on his hands; to the great honor! of the loyal and liberal inhabitants of Lewes! What a precious set!’

Gideon Mantell - geologist


Alexander Hamilton Stephens,
lawyer and politician

‘The other day, as I was coming from my boarding-house in a cheerful brisk walk, I was laid low in the dust by hearing the superintendent of a shoe-shop ask a workman, “Who is that little fellow that walks so fast by here every day?” with the reply in a sarcastic tone, “Why, that’s a lawyer!” ’

Deprived of my liberty


Anna Dostoevsky,

‘I got up at nine, and remembered I must send my letter to Mama, to whom I write every week, and that I simply must ask them about sending money. I enclosed a little note in this letter for Masha, to whom so far I have not written much. Fyodor woke up while I was finishing the letter; and I told him I was going to the post, and went out quickly. I really was back in a few moments, but Fyodor said he would have to keep a fast hold of me, as I was “slippery as a piece of silk.” After tea Fyodor declared he must go to the chemist’s to get some medicine. I was seized with a dreadful fit of jealousy, and thought he was going to meet some other woman. I sat by the window, leaning out as far as I could till I nearly fell out, looking through a pair of field glasses at the way lie went and mum come hack by. Already my heart was filled with all the torment of a deserted wife; my eyes, staring in front of me, were full of tears, and still no Fyodor came. At last I saw my darling strolling along another way home, all unconscious. I went to him at once, and told him what I had been through. (It would have been interesting to know the precise object of my jealousy, for it really could only have been old Ida, or even Frau Zimmermann!) The walk had tired him so much that he sat down and went fast to sleep, after asking me to wake him in half an hour. Suddenly the idiotic thought came into my head that he was dead; full of fear I crept up to him, and saw as I looked at him that he was as alive as could be. I waked him up at a quarter to six; he dressed, and we went through a rather sharp shower out to the Terrace to eat. But there we were to meet with a strange happening, that made it impossible for us to go there for meals in future. Four of the waiters were sitting in the room and playing cards as we went in, and in the room next to it where were only two other customers besides ourselves, only the “Diplomat” was on duty. A Saxon officer came in, and the “Diplomat” flew to serve him. Fyodor knocked, but the “Diplomat” took no notice. Fyodor knocked again, and then the “Diplomat” came up, but made no attempt to listen to us, excused himself, and went back again to the officer. We meant to eat only a la carte, and ordered some soup; the waiter scarcely heard us out, and then brought it to us. Long after we had finished it, he never came near us again, but continued to attend to the officer. Once again Fyodor knocked, and then the waiter spoke very rudely, saying he heard and would be with us presently, and that there was no need to keep on knocking. Then he brought some wine. Fyodor ordered a veal cutlet and two portions of roast fowl. After a while up came the waiter, bringing one portion only of roast chicken. We asked what he meant by it and he declared we had ordered one chicken only. Fyodor put him right and the man went away again saying he would soon bring all we wanted. Fyodor got into a terrible rage. He was all for going away immediately, saying he would not be treated like that by servants, but I took their part as best as I could, as I so wanted to go on dining. Fyodor declared he could wish himself alone. The waiter came back bringing with him one veal cutlet. Obviously he had made this mistake on purpose. Fyodor then completely lost his temper. He asked for the bill which the waiter said came to twenty-two silver groschcn. Fyodor paid him a thaler and wouldn’t take the change up from the table. We left the place, furious. I was really not so furious as Fyodor as to me it had a comic side, our not eating there. I implored him to calm himself, but he wouldn’t, and began to scold. So I told him if he insisted going on like that I would rather go home. Then he began to shout at me and I got so cross I began to go home, but on the way I thought how lonely it would be sitting there all alone, and went to the post instead, to see if there were any letters. But there was nothing, so I bought some cigarettes and went home. Ida told me Fyodor had been back already, walking up and down and then going out again. That made me feel dreadfully upset, for I couldn’t imagine where he had got to. Then I looked out of the window and saw him coming along. I was ever so glad and received him as if nothing had happened. He was pale and agitated, and obviously depressed by our quarrel. He told me how he had hurried after me at once, and not finding me at home thought I must have gone on to the Terrace, to show my independence by eating there. We dressed then and went out in the pouring rain. But where to go we knew not for one can hardly get lunch at eight in the evening. We passed the Hotel Victoria on our way, so we went in. Everything there was very nice and well ordered; newspapers and writing material lying on the tables. We asked for the menu and chose three dishes, and this little meal came to two thalers, ten silver groschen. Certainly everything was beautifully done, but the price is fearfully high. Actually twelve silver groschen for one chop - who ever heard of such a price! We also had ices, and I must say we had never seen such beautiful pink ices as those they brought us, and not really so very dear, either. At nine o’clock, when we had finished our meal we went on our way home again; but to-day was to be a day of disagreements. I had opened my umbrella; but as I do not know how to handle it so beautifully as do these immaculate Germans, I got it all tangled up with some worthy German gentleman. Fyodor started positively yelling at me and for very rage I started to tremble all over. We had to go to the locksmith to get our trunk, but the shop had been closed long ago and all our knocking was in vain. We started quarrelling again once we were at home, drinking tea - oh, what a miserable day! I wanted to talk quite calmly to Fyodor about his journey the next day; but he misunderstood me and started shouting again; that was too much for me; I started shouting myself, and then went into the bedroom. Repentance followed, moaning over my misery, doubts as to whether we were suited to one another, and so on and so forth. How foolish are all these heart storms and all this unhappiness over something that is not really even there! I was thankful when this miserable day came to an end, for I detest quarrelling. Fyodor never waked me to give me my good-night kiss, and that is a bad sign. But perhaps it was better so; we should only have started quarrelling again. Fyodor is going away, not to-morrow, but the day after.’

Quarrelling with Fyodor


Emmeline Wells,

‘Wrote all day had Belle here, Em. went up to Belle’s and staid all day, in the evening Mr. Hendrie came and staid until late half-past twelve; it seemed refreshing after such an interval of time since he had been in our midst. If he could only realize the necessity of obeying the Gospel how happy we should all be. I cannot describe to any one my feelings in regard to these things.

This Mr Hendry so often referred to was very much in love with my sister Emmie An extremely nice man, educated wealthy good family but not a member of the Church. Mother idolized Emmie and desired her happiness but belief caused difficulties.

Heart aches for the mothers


Heinrich Schenker,

‘In the morning, a walk in the Botanic Garden.

Egypt at the Panorama. Reading: ”On Cultivated Plants” by Prof. Giesenhagen (Teubner) has a lovely, profound and liberating effect! ’

Diaries of a musical theorist


Wilbur Wright,

‘We spent a comfortable night, the air being more quiet than the preceding night. We spent the day on actuating devices, &c. As this is all new work it takes much time. Charley worked most of the day on track and finished up a dozen rails each about 14 ft. long. The sitting position for the operators will probably be more comfortable but will require practice before we can tackle high winds. The N.Y. Herald has telegraphed the Weather Bureau operator at Manteo for information regarding us. Mr. Dosher also telephoned the K.D. Station today for information. He evidently had been asked by some paper to get news.’

Famous flight at Le Mans


Maurice Hankey,
civil servant

‘Spent morning preparing notes for P.M.’s speech to introduce compulsion for married men. P.M. was very “short” when I saw him and obviously hated the job. I dropped into the House after lunching at the Club and heard the speech. It was not a very good one - not so good as the one I gave him. The House was astonishingly cold. The fact was that the people who want compulsory service don’t want Asquith, while those who want Asquith don’t want compulsory service; so he fell between two stools! It is really an astonishing situation. The only real military case for the Bill is the great offensive. For an ordinary campaign there are heaps of men. That is to say we could fight the whole summer and lose men on the same scale as we lost them last year, which included Gallipoli, Neuve Chapelle, Loos and Festubert, and still have 50,000 men up our sleeve at the end of the year. But the Army want a regular orgy of slaughter this summer, and it is for this that they demand the extra men. Thus the Cabinet have yielded to a demand based solely on carrying out the plan for a great offensive, a plan which no member of the Cabinet and none of the regimental soldiers who will have to carry it out believe in, a plan conceived in the heads of the red-hatted, brass-bound brigade behind, who know little of the conditions at the actual front and are out of touch with real regimental opinion. It is alleged that we must do this thing to save the Russians - yet the French did it all last summer, with the result that they are now bled white and have no reserves left. . . Yet we are asked by the “scientific” soldier to repeat the process, notwithstanding that it may jeopardise the financial stability of this country on which the whole future of the Allies rests! Strongly though I feel on this matter I find it extraordinarily difficult to take any action, because I am not the constitutional military adviser of the government. Yet I have my own plan, which I have communicated to Robertson and Robertson to Haig, and which I am certain must succeed . . . Came home much depressed.’

Dreadful meetings


Richard E. Byrd,

‘Worked all night on beach to get plane ready but had bright sunlight. Built little hanger of [illegible]. Took lunch with Amundsen who professes great friendship but gave Lt. Balchen (who is a peach and wanted to help us and has helped us) orders not to come near us again.’

Flying over the Poles


Carolina Maria de Jesus,
rubbish collector

‘I’m not lazy. There are times when I try to keep up my diary. But then I think it’s not worth it and figure I’m wasting my time.

I’ve made a promise to myself. I want to treat people that I know with more consideration. I want to have a pleasant smile for children and the employed.

I received a summons to appear at 8pm at police station number 12. I spent the day looking for paper. At night my feet pained me so I couldn’t walk. It started to rain. I went to the station and took Jose Carlos with me. The summons was for him. Jose Carlos is nine years old.’

There’s nothing to eat


André Laurendeau,

‘On Saturday, April 25, at about 5:00 p.m., return to an impossible life: I leave Montreal first for Toronto, then for Vancouver. During the stopover in Toronto, I learn from the Toronto Star that a commissioner fell asleep at the regional meeting the previous day in Edmonton, and that another spent his time smoking cigarettes in front of a no-smoking sign; a woman in the audience even commented that he must not speak English . . . A disagreeable impression, since all this appears on page 1 of Canada’s largest daily paper. I sit with Neil, Mr. Stinson and Frank Scott on the plane. It’s about 6:30; a red sun is on the point of disappearing over the horizon when the plane takes off. As we’re climbing quite quickly into the sky, the sun all of a sudden seems to be rising. And then we observe an amazing spectacle: a twilight that lasts for four and a half hours. During the first hour, we distinctly see Georgian Bay, then Lake Superior, and finally the desolate view of Northern Ontario. Then a screen of clouds settles in below us, and all we can see is this extraordinary end of a day, so slow that you feel you are out of time. It is only when we’re approaching Vancouver that night falls.

Dr. Walden meets us at the airport, and it’s a good thing: for the second time my suitcase has been lost, and I have to borrow a pair of pyjamas, buy a toothbrush and shave with someone else’s razor.

The stay in Vancouver starts out rather painfully. It’s not yet ten o’clock by Vancouver time and Dunton, who arrived the same day from Edmonton, isn’t yet back from dinner. Marchand, Gagnon, Lacoste and Boisvert are travelling by train. The others gradually drift into our suite, and I learn in bits and pieces that the Edmonton incident was decidedly disgraceful, and that it could have led to unpleasant consequences. Two of the commissioners had had too much to drink at dinner; one snored through the session, despite the nudges of Jean Marchand, who was sitting beside him, and the other made some imprudent comments (specifically on the need for a new newspaper in Edmonton). The staff were disappointed and humiliated by this public behaviour. The next day I learned that Jean Marchand royally chewed out one of the commissioners, who failed to understand his veiled allusions. All this seems far away now, but at the time we were all thinking of what would have happened if a newspaper had photographed our indiscreet sleeping friend. When Dunton arrived he seemed nervous and even aggressive, which is not his usual style. . .

The Commission met at 5:00 p.m. (the next day) for a briefing from Dr. Walden, who has done excellent work and recruited some remarkable collaborators. We ate on the run because at 8:00 there was a press conference in the presence of about twenty high-school students and the discussion leaders for the next day’s session. It wasn’t a very good blend: it meant we had a gathering in which the journalists felt a bit lost; and we had to exclude them from the meeting once the interviews were over . . . Once they were gone - and one of them surreptitiously tried to stay - it became a lot more interesting. Neil Morrison said a few words, and immediately the young people started to come forth with questions and opinions. I have only a vague recollection of what they said; I think it dealt mainly with language questions: Is it possible to learn French in Vancouver? Why this pre-eminence being given to French? How “good” is the French spoken by French Canadians? etc. Their ignorance of Quebec is no greater than that of other groups. And yet Dunton caught them out with a clever question: “How many of you know that Quebec has a rural majority?” All the hands were raised, and we burst out laughing. Dunton made the correction: 65% of the province is now urban, to which we could have added that there hasn’t been a rural majority since 1921. These young people are a good forty years behind the times; but it’s true that we took a long time ourselves to notice this transformation. This meeting, which lasted over an hour, was truly refreshing, and one had the feeling it could have gone on for hours. But to be really fruitful it would have had to contain a presentation on Quebec - which brings us back to our insoluble problem: for it’s a presentation we can’t make ourselves and that we can’t officially ask anyone else to make.

Finally, a fairly technical discussion with the group leaders, then coffee. A young businessman said to me: “Do you know why I’m here this evening? Like most people, I was fairly indifferent to this problem. About a month ago, I heard a speech by a young Liberal MP, a man with an attractive personality, very French Canadian. When he spoke in French, I said to myself: I don’t understand a thing he’s saying, no more than if he were speaking Russian; and yet he’s using the language spoken by a third of the Canadian people. My ignorance seemed to me abnormal.” Unfortunately, one swallow doesn’t a springtime make . . .

On Monday the 28th, the evening regional meeting was held in a shopping centre, almost in the suburbs. We expected a fiasco, but more than 400 people came. All the commissioners and group leaders were crowded onto a little stage, blinded by floodlights, but just the same it was a very lively meeting. It started out with a series of negative comments on Quebec, one after the other, very disagreeable to listen to; the theme was that of a “retarded people,” and retarded through its own fault. And then a young man I had met earlier in the day got up and said: “Keep on insulting French Canadians like this, and you’ll create thousands more new separatists in Quebec.” That was the turning point: others pointed out the large number of errors and prejudice in what had just been expressed, tried to set the record straight, etc. Neil was very nervous, and irritated by the comments he was constantly getting from the commissioners sitting near him. Once the meeting ended, he lost his temper: “This is the last meeting that I chair.” There was no point in trying to talk to him at that moment.

We went back and chatted in our suite, and later Jean-Louis, Mrs. Laing and I went out to eat in an Italian restaurant.’

What might have been


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And so made significant . . .
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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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