And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

29 November

1829
Henry Edward Fox,
diplomat

‘30 Old Steyne, Brighton. I was called a little after seven and got up immediately. The morning was foggy, damp and cold. I left London before 9 and stopped to hear how Miss Vernon had passed the night at Little Holland House. I was happy to find that the new medicine and a blister had in some measure relieved her and given her a few hours’ sleep. I cannot, however, help apprehending that all ultimate hopes of her recovery must be very faint. My journey was rapid and had no other merit. The country (indeed like almost all the country in this island) is tame and uninteresting; perpetual small country-houses with their mean trimness and Lilliput ostentation. There are few of those worst of all sights on this road - a vast green field, dotted with trees, surrounded by a wall, and damped by a variety of swampy ponds, which call themselves country seats. I arrived at half past 2. My mother was on the pier. I sat with my father, who was, as he always is, very lively.’

In Brighton with George IV

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1841
Barclay Fox,
businessman

‘The deluge of 1841. The rain poured down in streams instead of drops, the low lands are inundated, walls & hedges are washed away. The water in some of the houses at Penryn is 4 or 5 feet deep & the inhabitants with their pigs are taking refuge in the top storey according to my father’s report, who went to Carlew this morning. The road about Stewart’s bone mill is converted into a rapid river 3 or 4 feet deep in some places. The like has not been known in this county within the memory of man. It is a happy thing for the old ladies that they can read of the covenant made with our forefathers that the world should never be drowned again, for certainly this looks somewhat suspicious. With Sterling for about an hour in the evening, to my usual edification.’

The day came at last

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1852
Henry Crabb Robinson,
lawyer

‘I went to Robertson’s, and had two hours of interesting chat with him on his position here in the pulpit; also about Lady Byron. He speaks of her as the noblest woman he ever knew.’

Weeds don’t spoil

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1924
Edward Weston,
photographer

‘Diego, refering to my head of Galván, said, “Es un retrato - portrait - de Mexico.”

I cannot work in such feverish haste as I do with my Graflex and register quite the critical definition desired. F/ll is the smallest stop possible to use without undertiming when making portrait heads in the sun, - setting the shutter at 1/10 second and using panchromatic films, - thus when depth is required my difficulties are increased. Diego’s ample belly as he sat on a packing box in the Secretaria patio, swelled forward quite like a woman pregnant, presenting much difficulty.

Jean thinks they are the most interesting set of proofs from a sitting that I have done in Mexico. Well - I do like some of them, yes, a number of them, yet I could wish, especially with Diego, that I had made something to be very enthusiastic over. In each proof I find a fault, granted a minor one, and I had hoped for a quite perfect negative from this sitting, not just because Diego is a big artist, rather because he is especially interested in my work.

Last evening we went to a “studio tea” at Fred Davis’s home: a genial host, delicious food and drink, many beautiful things, mixed to be sure with an overwhelming number of bad ones. But I am impatient, I cannot enjoy social gatherings; the meeting with a few friends, one or two at a time, is the only form of contact that appeals to me.

I face the fact that I find myself really happy only when I am lost behind my camera or locked in my dark-room. So today I became happy for a while: I photographed more of my “juguetes Mexicanos”, this time the “pajaritos” - little birds - in blue, - exquisite things in line. I combined two of them on my ground glass. Perhaps three negatives will be considered worth printing. Martial music, - soldiers pass below, - a bedraggled lot but with brave front: not to be denied, dogs of sorry mien march with the procession somewhat lowering its essayed dignity. Tonight Chapultepec Castle is a blaze of light. - All this is preparation, for tomorrow is Calles inauguration.

Surely here in Mexico we live in another world for Thanksgiving Day was passed quite unremembered! - perhaps it should have been.’

Lost behind my camera

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1927
Evelyn Waugh,
writer

‘I am getting infinitely tired of London and its incessant fogs. Very little has happened lately. I see Evelyn a lot and a certain amount of Olivia. On Sunday I went to the first night of the Sitwell but was bitterly disappointed and bored. There had been a Sitwell party at Balston’s on the preceding Tuesday. I am getting on with the carpentry - Henry Lamb knows of a place in the country where I might work.’

Waugh’s appalling diaries

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1934
Ivan Maisky,
diplomat

‘The royal wedding finally took place today. From first light, and even from the previous night, London seemed to be overflowing its banks. Up to half a million people descended on the capital from all over the country. Many foreigners arrived from the Continent. The streets along which the wedding procession would pass were filled to bursting by an immense crowd that had gathered on the previous evening to occupy the best places. Typically the crowd consisted almost entirely of women. I, at least, noticed barely a single man on my way from the embassy to the Westminster Abbey. [. . .]

On this occasion I was obliged to attend the wedding ceremony itself, in Westminster Abbey. That’s what Moscow decided. It was the first time I had attended a church service since leaving school, 33 years ago! That’s quite a stretch.

The diplomatic corps sat to the right of the entrance, and members of the government on the left. Simon was my partner on the opposite side. MacDonald zealously chanted psalms during the service. Baldwin yawned wearily, while [Walter] Elliot [minister for agriculture] simply dozed. Churchill looked deeply moved and at one point even seemed to wipe his eyes with a handkerchief.’

An old, leaky, faded umbrella!

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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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