And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

3 May

1698
Cotton Mather,
priest

This Day, my little Daughter Hannah, was taken very dangerously sick of a Feavour, with Convulsions, to such a Degree, that there was little Hope of her Life. My Lecture, with other Fatigues, coming this Week upon mee, I could not Fast and Pray y as I would have done. Yett I pray’d, and cry’d unto Heaven, for the Child, and openly and publickly, as well as privately, made this an Opportunity, to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, by the cheerful Resignation thereof unto Him. Now, behold, the Event! Resigned Enjoyments, will bee still enjoy’d. While I was Joyfully, and yett mournfully giving up the Infant unto the Lord, the Lord raised my Heart at last, unto something of a particular Faith, for its being restored unto mee. And, unto my Amazement, it came to pass accordingly.

Moreover, having written, with exceeding Pains, an Idea and History, of the Reformation, especially in the English Nation, and of the Obstructions which it has mett withal, all still asserted with Passages quoted from the Writings of conformable Divines in the Church of England; whereto, I have added, some Conjectures, of a Reformation and Revolution at hand, exceeding that in the former Century: I now sent the Manuscript, (Anonymous) by the Hand of my Brother-in-Law, to a Bookseller in London; and, if it bee published, I have a secret Hope, that it will much affect the Affayrs of the Church, in the Changes that are approaching. In this Treatise, because I distinguish the Friends of the Reformation, by the Name of Eleutherians, (while I call its Foes, Idumaeans,) for the Causes there assigned, I therefore entitled the Book, Eleutheria. Lord! Accept and prosper this my poor Endeavour to serve Thee!’

Cotton Mather, You Dog

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1837
Karl Varnhagen von Ense,
diplomat and soldier

‘In the evening, at the Princess of Pueckler’s, the long-promised lecture by Herr von Humboldt. The lecture was very fine, and made an excellent impression. I had a conversation with General von Ruhle on Humboldt’s genius. He totally agreed with me, saying, ‘When he shall have died, then only shall we understand well what we have possessed in him.’ ’

Humboldt’s genius

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1883
Alfred Domett,
prime minister and poet

‘At Edinburgh for my first time! A wonderful place with all that a town should have, in compactness and completeness unmatched - a perfect ideal of a city! Romantic site of hill and vale - fine buildings and monuments mediaeval and modern; palace and castle; antiquated gloomy wynds and closes and lofty houses towering up like cliffs, dotted with windows like loopholes; all teeming with associations, historical, poetical, scientific - national and individual - heroic, tragic, comic, quaint, terrible or humorous; all in their appropriate places, disposed like a scene in a theatre - all as it were within a space to be seen almost at a glance! . . .’

Browning’s friend Domett

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1892
Frank Wedekind,
writer

‘Sign my power of attorney at the Swiss Consulate, where Dr Stumm stamps me as a Swiss. Write to Mama. Dine with Katja and Weinhöppel, and discuss the Ballet Roquanedin at the Eden Theatre with him. Until two in the Pont Neuf, where we drink Baron Habermann’s health in Americain. Then I take the pair of them to an all-night cafe in the Halles, where Katja gets totally drunk. She refuses to take my arm, and I leave her to Weinhoppel, who trots out triumphantly with her into the Rue Montmartre. I keep out of sight and follow them about a hundred paces to the rear. Weinhoppel at last asks a passer-by, who directs him in the opposite direction. So they contrive to make their way over the Pont Neuf, which is just beginning to emerge in the first light of dawn, and get into the Boulevard St Germain, where they once more lose the track. They set out towards the Bastille. On the Boulevard St Michel they ask their way again and turn back the way they came. As they pass me, Katja asks me for her key. At the Eglise St Germain-des-Prés they lose their bearings once more and wait for me. I cross to the opposite pavement, they pursue me. I take refuge in a urinal and make them wait ages for me. Katja leans against a tree and starts crying. Finally they start walking round and round the urinal, come to the conclusion that I’m no longer inside, and set off again in search of the Rue Bonaparte. After wandering round for ages they return to my urinal, where I stick my umbrella out under the screen. They’ve finally found the right way. I once again follow them at a distance of a hundred yards, until Katja disappears in the entrance to the Hotel St Georges. Weinhoppel then comes up to my room. I go to bed about six.’

Wedekind’s erotic life

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1945
Alfred Kazin,
literary critic

‘Interview with T S Eliot, at his offices (Faber & Faber). Eliot now, if I calculate correctly, must be 57; face has aged and relaxed greatly, so that one’s first impression of him physically is of a rather tired kindness as opposed to the otherworldliness & hauteur of his early pictures. He was extremely kind, gentle, spoke very slowly and hesitatingly, livened up a bit when I pushed the conversation on to literary topics (at first, because of my official business, he spoke a little about popular education and his own experiences teaching for the WEA and LCC). He looks like a very sensitive question mark - long, winding, and bent; gives the impression that his sensibility is in his long curling nose and astonishing hands. I was so afraid that he would be standoffish or just reluctant that I spoke more than I wanted to, just to keep the conversation going. He said things which just verged on “you Americans,” but I grinned when he spoke of Truman and Missouri and he grinned back. . .’

The literary profession

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1958
Carolina Maria de Jesus,
rubbish collector

‘I went to the market at Carlos de Campos Street looking for any old thing. I got a lot of greens. But it didn’t help much, for I’ve got no cooking fat. The children are upset because there’s nothing to eat.’

There’s nothing to eat

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1977
Leonid Brezhnev,
politician

‘Weight - 85.300. Talk with Ryabenko. Talk on phone with Storozhev? I know what he wants. Talk with Chernenko K.U.-? About PB agenda Tailors - gave the grey suit, got the leather double-breasted casual jacket Rang Yu.V. Andropov - he came and we chatted Worked with Doroshina’

To every historian’s despair

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1992
May Sarton,
writer

‘My eightieth birthday. It seems quite unbelievable that I have lived eighty years on this earth. It makes no sense, and I do not believe it. Today, here at Wild Knoll, a very English morning with mist, the daffodils come up through the mist - romantic, and intimate.

As I lie here on my bed all dressed, I am looking at delphiniums, the first flowers that came, which are from someone I do not know, a fan in Oregon, and they have been so beautiful. The delicate, yet brilliant blue against white walls. What a joy they have been!

But this whole birthday is such an ascent of celebration that I can hardly believe I have arrived, as though I were at the top of a mountain. These last days, full of cards, many from readers, and all so moving. I was going to say “too many presents” simply because it is tiring for me opening things now - I feel like a little child at Christmas - but I am so touched by all the people who wanted to remember this particular birthday.

There are too many lists to cross off one by one because nowadays I am sending Endgame, my journal, to friends. I also have copies of the little book of my new poems that Bill Ewert has given me for my eightieth birthday to send out. Without Susan, who is here for the weekend, it would all be quite impossible. She creates order out of chaos.

We shall celebrate my birthday today, doing everything with ceremony. How rare the sense of ceremony is! Susan in a beautiful dress last night helped my heart. [. . .]

The whole day has been a festival of love and friendship. And as I say goodnight I think of my mother and of how glad she must have been when I finally came out of her, alive and all right, and she took me in her arms.’

The scarlet tanager

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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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