And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

4 November

Jacob Bee,

‘A foot race was runn betwixt Fairebearnes, a butcher, and a countrey-man called John Upton, and runn upon Elvittmoore, the hardest run that ever any did see. The countrey-man wone upon hard tearmes, being runn soo nerely that scarce any could judge, when they had but one hundred yards to runn, whether should have it.’

Very fiery comets


Frances (Fanny) Burney,

‘Passed much the same as the days preceding it; the Queen in deep distress, the King in a state almost incompre-hensible, and all the house uneasy and alarmed. The drawing-room was again put off, and a steady residence seemed fixed at Windsor.’

The eve of some fever


George Washington,

‘Thermometer at 58 in the Morning - 75 at Noon and 72 at Night. Morning clear, calm and very pleasant - as the weather continued to be thro’ the day. Mr. Herbert & his Lady, Mr. Potts & his Lady, Mr. Ludwell Lee & his Lady, and Miss Nancy Craik came here to dinner and returned afterwards.’

Washington’s domestic felicity


John Scott,

‘King William’s birth-day. Saturday is the first sitting of term. This day Lord Fitzgibbon exhibited the most superb carriage that ever appeared in Ireland; he seems to have got the summit of his vanity, chancellor, minister, and mummer.’

At war with every difficulty


John Everett Millais,

‘Frightfully cold morning; snowing. Determined to build up some kind of protection against the weather wherein to paint. After breakfast superintended in person the construction of my hut - made of four hurdles, like a sentry-box, covered outside with straw. Felt a ‘Robinson Crusoe’ inside it, and delightfully sheltered from the wind, though rather inconvenienced at first by the straw, dust, and husks flying about my picture. Landlady came down to see me, and brought some hot wine. Hunt painting obstinate sheep within call. . . This evening walked out in the orchard (beautiful moonlight night, but fearfully cold) with a lantern for Hunt to see effect before finishing background, which he intends doing by moonlight.’

At work on Ophelia


Raja Varma,

‘Last night we witnessed the Comedy of ‘H.E. the Governor’ at the Novelty.

I did not like it much nor did Brother or Bapuji. There was not much for the display of an actor’s skill. The whole thing was a domestic incident and nothing else. This morning I painted the Parsee Widow’s jacket and Sari, while brother retouched the Nizzam’s head for Mr Schleicher. In the evening we returned the visit of our Hyderabad friend Mr Permanand Das. He lives in the palace of Devaki Namdas Maharaja, one of the high priests of the Vaishnavas of the Vallabhachari persuasion. The building is splendid.’

Painting with brother


Edna St. Vincent Millay,

‘Two letters and a card from my Editor. Miss Rittenhouse, secretary of the Poetry Society of America, says, “Renascence is far the best thing in the book. If it doesn’t get the prize I pity your judges.” But it didn’t get the prize! Everything but money!’

Mrs Grundy’s Easter hat


Robert Lindsay Mackay,

‘Albert is knocked about in the most up-to-date fashion, in accordance with the most advanced ideas. There is not a pane of unbroken glass in the place. Every house, if not entirely demolished or with a gable or two missing, has a few holes in the roof, which help the ventilation and also assist materially in the disposal of surplus rain. Ye Gods! It is a funny life!

Albert Cathedral has been very badly smashed but the tower still remains with the figure of the Virgin and Child held out at right angles to it at the top and threatening to fall at any moment on the heads of countless people who pass below. It is commonly said that the War will not end until the Virgin falls. As the French don’t want it to fall (preferring to keep it as a monument of the Huns’ occupation of the place), what can we do?’

A bath in Albert


Howard Carter,

‘First steps of tomb found

At about 10am I discovered beneath almost the first hut attacked the first traces of the entrance of the tomb (Tut.ankh.Amen) This comprised the first step of the N.E. corner (of the sunken-staircase). Quite a short time sufficed to show that it was the beginning of a steep excavation cut in the bed rock, about four metres below the entrance of Ramses VI’s tomb, and a similar depth below the present level of the valley. And, that it was of the nature of a sunken staircase entrance to a tomb of the type of the XVIIIth Dyn., but further than that nothing could be told until the heavy rubbish above was cleared away.’

The finding of Tutankhamun


Edward Weston,

‘The sitting of D. H. Lawrence this morning. A tall, slender, rather reserved individual with a brick-red beard. He was amiable enough and we parted in a friendly way, but the contact was too brief for either of us to penetrate more than superficially the other: no way to make a sitting.’

Lost behind my camera


Alan Clark,

‘The papers are all very bad. Tory Party falling apart, the death blow, that kind of thing. Something in it, I fear, unless we can get a grip on events. The only person who can restore order in the parliamentary ranks is Tristan. He can do it short-term (like many intelligent people T. can only see things very long or very short) but that’s enough. Get us past November.

After breakfast I telephoned Chequers.
‘The Prime Minister is speechwriting.’
‘Who with?’
‘Charles Powell.’
‘When will she be free?’
‘There might be a minute before lunch.’
‘When’s that?’
‘One o’clock sharp.’

I was being kept at bay. Unusual. The Number 10 switchboard girls are always helpful. With Chequers I’ve had this problem before.

‘Oh well, please pass her my name, in case she wants to take a call then.’

It was a lovely crisp day of late autumn. I had said I’d join Jane in the garden. Now I was going to be stuck indoors waitng for a call. But I had barely got to the doorway to give her a shout when the phone started ringing.

‘Alan . . .’

I tried to cheer her up: ‘There’s an awful lot of wind about’. ‘Hold tight and it’ll all blow away’. ‘Geoffrey was past it by now, anyway.’

I said, with suitable preface, that I would never seek to tell her who she should employ or why; but that if she could find something for ’Tim’ to do . . .

‘Tim who?’ (thinking, I suppose, that I wanted her to bring someone called Tim into the Cabinet. Blast, blast. Too oblique Never works with her.)

‘Renton. You really ought to make Tristan your Chief Whip.’

A very long silence. I almost said ‘hullo’, but didn’t.

‘Oh but he’s enjoying his present job so much . . .’

I don’t think she realises what a jam she’s in. It’s the Bunker syndrome. Everyone round you is clicking their heels. The saluting sentries have highly polished boots and beautifully creased uniforms But out there at the Front it’s all disintegrating. The soldiers are starving in tatters and makeshift bandages. Whole units are mutinous and in flight.’

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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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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.