And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

21 November

1739
Ananda Ranga Pillai,
writer

‘A remarkable incident which occurred this evening at 5, was the following. The ex-chief of the peons, actuated by jealousy at the appointment of Muttaiya Pillai in his place, instigated one of his men to commit thefts in the town. This individual had long been engaged in the business, and was at last apprehended, four or five months ago. When he was beaten, and pressed in other ways, he made a clean breast of the whole affair, from the very beginning, and mentioned the names of all the persons who had either seen his acts or heard of them, or who had either concealed the goods stolen by him, or harboured him.

These abettors, who were about fifteen or sixteen in number, were thrown into prison with him. The Council having heard their statements, discharged them all, with the exception of the thief, and five of the abettors, who were found to be seriously implicated. . . The offenders received the following punishments, under an order of Council. The thief was publicly hanged; a punishment which was carried out at 5 in the evening at the centre of the town in the bazaar-road, opposite to the court-house, on a gallows which had been temporarily erected there for the purpose; [. . .]

Of the remaining five criminals, Odavi [. . .] and the goldsmith were each awarded fifty stripes, their ears were cut off, and they were expelled beyond the bounds of Pondichery. The other three [. . .] were ordered to stand in a line and were whipped; each receiving twenty-five lashes. On two or three further charges, the punishment of whipping will again be inflicted on them, and they will then be released.’

18th century India

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1911
Roger Casement,
diplomat

‘Arr. Nazareth at 10 and after some hours there up to Marius Levy’s where shipped 65 cases rubber (101⁄2 tons weight) . . . Back to Nazareth - young Italian, stout but very nice face, huge stern, thighs and immense big one, long, thick, soft, he fingered often and one could see it hanging down 6” or 7” inches long - through very thick trousers too. Left Nazareth at 5 with “Le Journal” from Belém. Up to 5 Oct. giving Italy-Turkey war and strike in Ireland. At union and mouth of Javari at 9.30 and on to Leticia.’

Casement’s black reputation

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1919
Tommy Lascelles,
civil servant and courtier

‘ ‘W N P Barbellion’ is dead. This must be a shock to many reviewers, who, when The Journal of a Disappointed Man appeared, with a preface by H G Wells, said, ‘You can’t deceive us. Wells wrote this book himself’. But it seems you can, for a man called Bruce Cummings wrote it, and, as I say, he’s dead, at the age of 30.’

Sports of the people

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1924
Edward Weston,
photographer

‘To Fronton - Juego de Pelota - with Pepe, Chandler and Tina. “You may find it more thrilling than ‘los toros’,” said Pepe. I did not, though it was exciting, to be sure - a game to make, by contrast, our tennis and baseball appear quite tame. The Latins evolve sports that are spectacular, sensational, dangerous, and always elegant. Every second of the play was scintillating; one fairly gasped as the pelota shot through the air like a bullet while the players executed most miraculous passes, involving dramatically tense and beautiful postures.

Preceding our departure for Fronton, a surprise was afforded us by the arrival of Chariot, Nahui Olin, Federico, Anita and several bottles of wine. They had come to celebrate! And this is why - at the recent exhibit in the Palacio de Mineria, I was awarded first prize for photographs (one hundred and fifty pesos)! Quite unbelievable. I shall await undue enthusiasm until the money is collected. The honor of winning amounts to nothing: we had no real competition. Diego Rivera was on the jury, who else I know not.’

Lost behind my camera

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1946
Harold Nicolson,
politician and writer

‘I reach the age of sixty. I talk at Chatham House on ‘Peacemaking, 1919 and 1946’. It goes very well. There are many questions - all sensible. I then return to the Travellers and have a drink with Victor Cunard and Moley Sargent. I come back with Victor, who has taken a house immediately opposite this bloody tenement.

I return across the road, conscious of my sixty years. Until about five years ago I detected no decline at all in physical vigour and felt as young as I did at thirty. In the last five years, however, I am conscious that my physical powers are on the decline. I am getting slightly deaf. Intellectually I observe no decline: I can write with the same facility, which is perhaps a fault. I do not notice that my curiosity, my interests or my powers of enjoyment and amusement have declined at all. What is sad about becoming sixty is that one loses all sense of adventure. It is unlikely now that the impossible will happen. I am very well aware, moreover, that I have not achieved either in the literary or the political world that status which my talents and hard work might seem to justify. In literature, the explanation is simple: although hard-working, I am not intelligent enough to write better than I do. In politics, it has been due partly to lack of push and even of courage, and partly to a combination of unfortunate events (Mosley, National Labour, my being identified with the Ministry of Information at a bad time, and so on). There was a moment in 1938 when it looked as if I had a political future, but that moment passed. I failed to seize it.

Now how much do I mind all this? I have no desire for office or power in any sense. I know quite honestly that if I were offered the Embassy in Paris or Rome, I should hesitate to accept, not only because Viti would hate it, but because I have no wish to be prominent and grand. But of course I am disappointed by my literary ill-success. Nor do I quite relish the idea that my reputation rests not so much upon my political or literary work, as upon my journalistic and broadcasting work. I regret all this quite faintly. I see, on the other hand, a long life behind me, dashed with sunshine and gay with every colour. And to have three people in my life such as Viti and Ben and Nigel is something greater than all material success. For if happiness is in fact the aim of life, then assuredly I have had forty years of happiness, from the day when as a little boy I walked down to the station at Wellington College with a surge of freedom in my heart. Since that hour of liberation I have had a wonderful succession of delights and interests. For which I thank my destiny.’

For one’s great-grandson

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1990
Alan Clark,
politician

‘I was greeted with the news that there had been an announcement. “I fight, and I fight to win.” God alive! [. . .]

I passed her outer door and said to Peter that I must have a minute or so. He looked anxious, almost rattled, which he never does normally. [. . .]

I went down the stairs and rejoined the group outside her door. After a bit Peter said, “I can just fit you in now - but only for a split second, mind.”
She looked calm, almost beautiful. “Ah, Alan . . .”
“You’re in a jam.”
“I know that.”
“They’re telling you not to stand, aren’t they?”
“I’m going to stand. I have issued a statement.”
“That’s wonderful. That’s heroic. But the Party will let you down.”
“I am a fighter.”
“Fight, then. Fight right to the end, a third ballot if you need to. But you lose.”
There was quite a little pause.
“It’d be so terrible if Michael won. He would undo everything I have fought for.”
“But what a way to go! Unbeaten in three elections, never rejected by the people. Brought down by nonentities!”
“But Michael . . . as Prime Minister.”
“Who the fuck’s Michael? No one. Nothing. He won’t last six months. I doubt if he’d even win the Election. Your place in history is towering. . . ‘

Outside, people were doing that maddening trick of opening and shutting the door, at shorter and shorter intervals.

“Alan, it’s been so good of you to come in and see me . . .”

Afterwards I felt empty. And cross. I had failed, but I didn’t really know what I wanted, except for her still to be Prime Minister, and it wasn’t going to work out.’

Thatcher gives a cuddle

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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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