And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

8 November

Julian Niemcewicz,


I found all the inhabitants of the town busy in preparing the reception and dinner for Mr John Adams, President of the United States. The cool heads, and the methodical manners of these solemn Americans lead them to go about their business of a dinner with the same rules that they use in discussing affairs of State. A committee was appointed to arrange the dinner and a President and a Vice-President to maintain good order at the table and to receive the chief magistrate. Many evenings were spent on arranging this important affair. Finally Mr Adams arrived, but two hours before the appointed time. Nothing was ready. Immediately, the militia, both mounted and on foot, ran about the streets; the authorities put their wigs on askew; the elegants arrived with their shoes half buckled. The cannon fired a half [hour] after Mr Adams was already well warmed at the fire-place. Little by little everyone settled down and took breath. At one o’clock I was presented to Mr Adams. He was sitting, reading a newspaper, facing the fireplace with Mr Malcolm, a young man 20 years old, his private secretary. I saw a dumpy little man dressed wholly in gray, well-powdered hair and a long pigtail. His face appeared to me that of a good and honest man, touched nevertheless with a grain of a malice. He received me civilly, asked me news of Gl Kosciuszko and then Mar. La Fayette. I passed then into a room opposite and I found there the true counterpart of Mr Adams. It was his wife. Small, short and squat, she is accused of a horrible crime. It is said she puts on rouge. What is certain is that if her manner is not the most affable, her mind is well balanced and cultivated. She was accompanied only by a niece and a maidservant.

At two o’clock Cl Neilson, elected President of the whole ceremony, accompanied Gl White and all the citizens entered into the President’s room. Mr Neilson in the name of all the inhabitants read an address conceived in a style filled with expressions of attachment for the Constitution and the leading public officials. Mr Adams read his response, he spoke to some, shook the hand of all, and then he departed. At three o’clock the same ceremony to invite him to go into the dining hall. He made his way there through the ranks of citizens and thirty of the militia in uniform who lined his path. They saluted him by lowering flags. The table was set for 60 people. Rost-beef, turkeys, Pays [pies?], etc, were served in profusion.

In the middle of the dinner Mr Goss, a man 6 feet tall, over 70 years old, tanner by trade and prattler by habit, got up from the other end of the table, came to the side where the President was, displaced Gl White, who was seated beside him, sat down there himself and occupied his attention with the most coarse and silly tales possible. The good President laughed, then considering his enormous height said to him, “You should have been born in the states of the King of Prussia. You would have been the ornament of his guards.” “Would I have been the second in his kingdom, I would not wish to have been born there,” the tanner said to him. “Nor I,” answered the President “would I have been the first.” ’

A Pole in America


William Dunlap,
artist and writer

‘Call at Mr Southgates (to whom I was last night introduced) and pass half an hour with Bishop Moore. He is visiting his Diocese, returns here in about a fortnight & then goes home to Richmond. I am to paint his picture gratuitously, he being pleased with the offer, to be given to some friend to the North. He has children in Philadelphia. He recommends my being in Richmond during the session of the Legislature, promisses me his assistance & thinks I shall have employment. Mrs Southgate talks of a picture. Paint on the two Misses Glenn. Evening meet Gilfert at the Theatre. He says he can promise me 2 or 3 portraits to paint in Richmond. I have engaged a room to paint in, at a house but a short distance from my Hotel.’

Dunlap, painter and playwright


Hubert Parry,

‘While I was sitting at dinner George suddenly told me that “Mr. Parry” was waiting to see me in my room. I went up and to my surprise and delight found Clin. [his brother] there, quietly smoking. We went to Balston who sent us to my tutor and I got leave till 7.30. We took a walk round the Playing Fields (after going to Brown’s and having an oyster patty apiece). . . . We then went to the Organ Room, and I showed Clin the organ. We then adjourned to the “Christopher” of ancient reputation, and indulged in cigars and brandy and water. We then got over the wall, alias paling, at the back of the aforesaid building and proceeded to kick about. We then went “up ” Windsor and got sme ox-tail soup, and then at the Castle settled down to whiskey punch. He and I afterwards parted near Windsor Bridge. . . I came down to Eton and finished my verses before 8.45.’

Finished my first song


Heinrich Hertz,

‘Before lunch I went to an optician to find out the price of a battery and an electromagnet; but he said he did not stock the inferior sort and those he had were too expensive for me. Therefore I went to Prof. Boettger after luncheon to ask him whether I might be allowed to use the instruments of the Physical Society. He told me to write to the president, which I did that evening. I have not yet received an answer. Perhaps I shall not get one, or only a refusal; then I shall wait till I am home for Christmas. There was a very interesting lecture by Prof. Boettger this evening. He talked about sulfur and phosphorus.’

Hertz and his radio waves


Raja Varma,

‘This morning we went to Mr Chaturbhuj Khinji’s to photograph him and his wife who are anxious to have their portraits painted by us. On our return we were pleased to see Mr A. Raffin whom we had known 10 years ago as a boy at Grant Road.’

Painting with brother


Josephus Daniels,
politician and businessman

‘Victor Blue at my request called and went over the report of investigation. Thoughts Gleaves & Marbury Johnson wished to pile up specifications so as to get him. He wished US court martial –

Finland man came up with idea about air ships that could go across the ocean in 60 hours. Wished this government to build ships –

. . .Creel and O’Higgins here to dinner. The latter to write an article about me and my service as Secretary of the navy. Talked of the criticism and the policies I had tried to carry out . . .’

Secretary to the Navy


Aldo Leopold,

‘A bright fine morning. Up in dark at 4 a.m. and when sun came out started dolling up camp. We are under a big spreading alligator juniper on the edge of a pretty park full of fine grama grass. It is 200 yards down to Evans’ stock tank for water. There is enough oak and juniper wood within 200 yards of camp to furnish the U. S. Army, only they wouldn’t appreciate its fine qualities.

In the afternoon we de-horned a big dead juniper only 50 yards from camp and piled up half a cord of fragrant wood - also brought in some oak. Also started the sourdough and other similar ceremonies, including a pot of beans. Dined on beans and cornbread in a fall of snow which started in the middle of the afternoon and by bedtime was two inches deep. This will make fine prospecting for deer tomorrow. Had music in our snug dry camp after dinner while all the rest of the world outside was white and cold.’

The sweetest fish ever eaten


Jules Roy,
soldier and writer

‘Best day. Tonight Jean Louis is getting better. In Paris this morning. True Paris sky, with its light mist, its pale sun, and the glory of the old black walls of palaces, idealized by the spire of the Sainte-Chapelle.

Doyon is full of praise for my short story, Retour du front, whose manuscript I had passed to him. He just says it’s a bit special and the story, in fact, is thin. Obviously. There is nothing - just a railroad adventure. Sent the news to the N.R.F.’

From bomber to writer


Thomas Merton,

‘My third interview with the Dalai Lama was in some ways the best. He asked a lot of questions about Western monastic life, particularly the vows, the rule of silence, the ascetic way, etc. But what concerned him most was: 1) Did the “vows” have any connection with a spiritual transmission or initiation? 2) Having made vows, did the monks continue to progress along a spiritual way, toward and eventual illumination, and what were the degrees of that progress? And supposing a monk died without having attained to perfect illumination? What ascetic methods were used to help purify the mind of passions? He was interested in the “mystical life,” rather than in external observance. [. . .]

I asked him about the question of Marxism and monasticism, which is to be the topic of my Bangkok lecture. He said that from a certain point of view it was impossible for monks and Communists to get along, but that perhaps it should not be entirely impossible if Marxism meant only the establishment of an equitable economic and social structure. Also there was perhaps some truth in Marx’s critique of religion in view of the fact that religious leaders had so consistently been hand in glove with secular power. Still, on the other hand, militant atheism did in fact strive to suppress all forms of religion, good or bad.

Finally, we got into a rather technical discussion of mind, whether as consciousness, prajna and dhyana, and the relation of prajna to sunyata. [. . .]

It was a very warm and cordial discussion and at the end I felt we had become very good friends and were somehow quite close to one another.’

Befriending the Dalai Lama


Catherine Deneuve,

‘Difficult start today. [. . ] I’m so aware of Buñuel’s irritation and impatience with the slightest setback that I become completely paralysed. Even though this shot shouldn’t be difficult, I can’t seem to break it down. He settles for three takes. Grim lunch at La Venta de los Aires, I feel like crying. When a shot goes badly, I feel like a useless subject. Totally useless, because my dialogue is of no interest to him, he’s not even listening. This will be a proper Spanish film, I’ll be dubbed, which I sometimes find hard to accept. One shot this afternoon, a bit better. My first really bad day.’

Deneuve on location


Peter Clark,

‘At noon I get a summons to go to the Embassy to meet Malcolm Rifkind (or Rifkunt as one of my Syrian colleagues calls him). I bump into a breezy, relaxed Andrew Green who is accompanying him. The Secretary of State is in the loo when I arrive. The top floor of the Embassy is transformed into a mobile office. One man is busy on the phone. Another is scanning faxed press cuttings. A girl is at a typewriter. Coffee pots, teapots and cartons of fruit juice are on a shelf. Malcolm Rifkind comes in, relieved. We stand talking for my allotted five minutes. He fires questions at me and seems well briefed. I tell him that we see our role as subversive, promoting the values of an open and plural society. He laughs encouragingly. He has heard of the success of the opera. (Bully for him!)

I go to the airport to meet Leila Abouzeid, the Moroccan writer. I have been told that she is quite a big woman. I accost all the larger women coming off the plane from Tunis and Algiers and get “old-fashioned looks”. Eventually Leila accosts me. Actually she is quite petite in appearance, looking older than I expected. I take her to the house before the hotel. She is surprised at my interest in contemporary Arabic literature. I tell her I am an endangered species.’

Damascus diaries


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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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