And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

23 May

Cesare Borgia,
priest and politician

‘On the 23rd of May, 1499, a courier arrived from France with the report for the Pope that his son Cesare, the former cardinal, had contracted the marriage with the Lady d’Albret, on Sunday, the 12th of May, and had performed it and did take her eight times, one after the other.’

An orgy in the Vatican


John Baker,

‘Went Old Bailey - heard the trial of one Storer, a farrier’s man, for poisoning a horse of Mr Whitebread, a brewer - (on the Black Act which makes it death). Jury went out. Little boy of 11 or 12 began to be tried for stealing 6 table spoons, but I came away. Charles and housemaid and cook to Sadlers Wells.’

Ham at window


Vere Hunt,
landlord and politician

‘The town in great confusion and a rising expected every hour ... Went to the Castle, saw Lord Edward Fitzgerald’s uniform ... Lord Rossmore showed me an impression of the Great Seal found on Lord Edward ... People taken up every instant and flogged by military law to get confessions ... Determined to send my family off without delay, called with a hackney coach for Lady Hunt, Aubrey and Jenny Bindon, and set out for the Prince of Wales Packet. She could not sail, the wind being foul, and we all slept on board. Heard from Captain Hill of the Lady Fitzgibbon that Frank Arthur, Dr Hargrove, Doctor Ross (all from Limerick) and others were apprehended, and from my Uncle William Hunt that his son Billy was taken up.’

Vere Hunt in a crashing machine


Neil Campbell,

‘I have received a letter from the Admiral, dated Genoa, May 19, in which he states that he had sent transports to Savona for the Guards of Napoleon. He expects to be off this place in a few days, on his voyage to Sicily, with Lord William Bentinck on board. I shall take that opportunity of waiting upon them, to give every information in my power, and to obtain the advantage of their counsel.’

Of Napoleon, and a turtle


John Nash,

‘London - walked to Evans’ the booksellers - dined at Lyons.’

Dined at Lyons


Laura Matilda Towne,

‘Ellen is coming at last. I felt sure no one could stop her. Mr. McKim is also to come as Philadelphia agent, and I am free.

We have been for three days going to various plantations, once to Mr. Zacha’s at Paris Island, once to Mrs. Mary Jenkins’, Mr. Wells’ and to Edgar Fripp’s, or to Frogmore, Mr. Saulis’; also to Edding’s Point and one other place. At the three places of Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Fripp, and Edding, the wretched hovels with their wooden chimneys and the general squalor showed the former misery. One woman said the differences in the times were as great as if God had sent another Moses and a great deliverance - that it was heaven upon earth and earth in heaven now. They all seemed to love Mr. Wells. We saw there one woman whose two children had been whipped to death, and Mr. Wells said there was not one who was not marked up with welts. He had the old whip which had a ball at the end, and he had seen the healed marks of this ball on their flesh - the square welts showed where it had taken the flesh clean out. Loretta of this place showed me her back and arms to-day. In many places there were ridges as high and long as my little finger, and she said she had had four babies killed within her by whipping, one of which had its eye cut out, another its arm broken, and the others with marks of the lash. She says it was because even while “heaviest” she was required to do as much as usual for a field hand, and not being able, and being also rather apt to resist, and rather smart in speaking her mind, poor thing, she has suffered; and no wonder Grace, her child, is of the lowest type; no wonder she is more indifferent about her clothes and house than any one here. She says this was the crudest place she was ever in.

The happiest family I know here is old Aunt Bess’s Minda and Jerry and herself. They are always joking and jolly but very gentle. When I go there at night to dress Bess’s foot I find her lying upon her heap of rags with the roaches running all over her and little Leah or some small child asleep beside her. Jerry got me some of the pine sticks they use for candles. They hold one for me while I dress the foot.

It is very interesting to observe how the negroes watch us for fear we shall go away. They are in constant dread of it and we cannot be absent a single day without anxiety on their part. It is very touching to hear their entreaties to us to stay, and their anxious questions. They have a horrible dread of their masters’ re-turn, especially here where Massa Dan’l’s name is a terror.

They appreciate the cheapness of our goods and especially of the sugar at the Overseer house, and are beginning to distrust the cotton agents who have charged them so wickedly.

The scenes in the cotton-house used to be very funny. Miss W. would say to some discontented purchaser who was demurring at the price of some article, “Well, now, I don’t want to sell this. I believe I won’t sell it to-day. But if you want to take it very much at a dollar and a half, you may have it. Oh, you don’t? Well, then, I can’t sell you anything. No, you can’t have anything. We are doing the best we can for you and you are not satisfied; you won’t be contented. Just go - go now, please. We want all the room and air we can get. You don’t want to buy and why do you stay? No, I shall not let you have anything but that. I don't want to sell it, but you may have it for a dollar and a half,” etc., etc.

This is one of many real scenes. The people are eager, crazy to buy, for they are afraid of their money, it being paper, and besides, they need clothes and see finer things than ever in their lives before. Except when they are excited they are very polite, always saying “Missus” to us, and “Sir” to one another. The children say, “ Good-mornin’, ma’am,” whenever they see us first in the day, and once I overheard two girls talking just after they had greeted me. One said, “I say good-mornin’ to my young missus [Miss Pope] and she say, I slap your mouth for your impudence, you nigger.’ ” I have heard other stories that tell tales.

The white folks used to have no cooking-utensils of their own here. They came and required certain things. The cooks hunted among the huts and borrowed what they needed till the family went away, of course straining every nerve to get such cooking as should please. “I would do anything for my massa,” Susannah says, “if he would n’t whip me.”

On May 7, as Mr. Pierce stepped off the boat at Hilton Head and walked up the pier, a Mr. Nobles, chief of the cotton agents here, came forward saying that he had a letter for him. Then he struck him upon the head, felled him, and beat him, saying that Mr. P. had reported him to the Secretary of the Treasury and had got a saddle and bridle of his. Mr. Pierce got up with difficulty and took only a defensive part. Some soldiers took Mr. Nobles off. Mr. Pierce had really mentioned this man and his agents, which was his duty as guardian of these people, for they were imposing upon the negroes shamefully. They, of course, hate this whole Society of Superintendents, etc., who will not see the negroes wronged. So Mr. P. has had his touch of martyrdom.

The Philadelphia consignment of goods - in all $2000 worth - would have done immense good if it had come in season. The people of these islands, whom Government does not ration (because there is corn here) had nothing but hominy to eat, were naked, were put to work at cotton, which they hated, as being nothing in their own pockets and all profit to the superintendent, who they could not be sure were not only another set of cotton agents or cotton planters; and so discontent and trouble arose. Mr. Pierce said to them that they should be fed, clothed, and paid, but they waited and waited in vain, trusting at first to promises and then beginning to distrust such men as were least friendly to them.

The first rations of pork - “splendid bacon,” everybody says - was dealt out the other day and there has been great joy ever since, or great content. If this had only come when first ordered there would have been this goodwill and trust from the first. They even allow the removal of the corn from one plantation to another now without murmuring, and that they were very much opposed to before.’

First school for freed slaves


John Dearman Birchall,

‘Mr Warburg came for one night. Looks well and is in good spirits. He describes the general business as being well managed beyond former precedent (the absence of Mr Webb in America as beneficial). We stand well everywhere abroad. He says the waters of Carlsbad are very efficacious in the cure of severe forms of gout [Dearman’s chief weakness] and that the Grosvenors and Bedfords are never absent. He describes Bohemian scenery in the neighbourhood of Carlsbad as very lovely.’

The tricycle diaries


Louis David Riel,

‘Down with beautiful hair and vain hair styles! Pretty heads are full of impure thoughts, they speak them aloud, they commit impure acts in great number.

No more useless words! I want to speak meekly. My thoughts must be charitable.’

Canada’s rebel hero


Galeazzo Ciano,

‘The Duce telephoned indignantly, charging that the Japanese ambassador, Shiratori, made certain unacceptable statements: the dominion of the world belongs to Japan, the Mikado is the only god on earth, and that both Hitler and Mussolini must come to accept this reality. I remember Shiratori during his short stay in Rome. He was a fanatical extremist, but, most of all, he was very uncouth.

Bismarck has confirmed to d’Aieta that Himmler is playing a personal game by inciting people to grumble. Is this true? For the time being I think that the rumor must be accepted with a lot of caution.’

I like Mussolini, very much


Charles Kikuchi,

‘Saturday. Last night after I came home I heard a number of gun shots. Alice says (unofficial) that three boys were shot while trying to escape over the fence, one of whom is in the hospital. The administration won’t take any moves to confirm or deny any of the stories so they continue to spread. This seems to be a shortsighted policy. There is no chance for the paper to bring such things out without being censored. They just won’t allow us to take a definite policy on aims, except possibly Americanization. They are so afraid of radicalism. If it is being a radical to push American ideals and war effort among the Japanese without fear of stepping on toes, then we are radicals. The Japanese are really conservative and anything a little different is an indication of radicalism. They will have to get used to changes, because there will be many of them in the next few years. They will never go back to their old pre-war lives. If they cannot adjust themselves to changes, they are in for bitter disillusionment. I have hopes that they will, but the Americanization process will be slow. We can’t expect anything else, I suppose, under the circumstances. Ever since Orientals have been in the U.S. they have had a difficult time. Denied citizenship and economic opportunities, it is not surprising that they have withdrawn and hung onto what they have brought with them. The cultural ties were stronger than the political ones. In a way it is a form of escapism.

Yesterday while we were playing our little card game, the police came in and arrested 88 men for violating the State Gambling law! This puts an end to our games for a while and is an “out” for me. I don’t know where all of those single men get their money; they certainly have enough for those big card and dice games.’

The Americanization process


John Rupert Colville,
civil servant

‘The P.M. went to the Palace at noon, as pre-arranged, and asked to resign. Then there was a pause, as the P.M. was anxious to emphasise to the public that the King has the right to decide for whom he shall send, and at 4.00 he returned to be invited to form a new, and a Conservative, Government. On the whole I think the people are on the P.M.’s side in this preliminary skirmish and it is generally supposed that many will vote for the Conservatives merely out of personal loyalty to W.S.C. Parliament will be dissolved in three weeks and the election will be on July 5th.

At No. 10 no work is being done by the P.M. We are all having to deal ourselves with many papers which ought to be submitted to him and I have persuaded the Foreign Office to send us the very minimum of minutes. I “weed” every day some sixty per cent of the Foreign Office telegrams. I suppose that three times as much paper comes to us now as in 1940 and that the P.M. sees half as much. But, of course, the problems, though more immediately grave then, were simpler in that the machinery of Government was far less elaborate and we had no Allies. Now there are boards and committees without number and two mighty Allies to be considered at every turn, apart from the host of lesser concerns such as French tactlessness in the Levant, Greek claims to the Dodecanese, internal Italian feuds, etc., etc. In 1941, when I left to join the R.A.F., I used often to be comparatively idle for days at a time and to think we were overstaffed. Now, apart from the Prof., Desmond Morton and Harvie-Watt we are six Private Secretaries (of whom Anthony Bevir, concentrating on Patronage, and Miss Watson on Parliamentary Questions, take no part in the routine of the office in current affairs), three male clerks, three eminently efficient women who look after the vast files of secret papers, and about sixteen typists, etc. Yet we seem to be understaffed.’

My first day at No. 10


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And so made significant . . .
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Notes and Cautions
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 Junction is one of those wonderful privately maintained public resources for which the Internet is justly celebrated: a database of information about celebrated and obscure diaries[over 500] from all historical periods, with referrals to the dates the diaries cover, where the originals are held and bibliographic information on published versions.’ Laura Miller, Salon

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.