And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

10 October

1637
Robert Woodford,
lawyer

‘my wives breasts sore still with chopping [cracks in skin]. I pray unto the Lord for cure in his time my Clyent Some came to me with this P[ro]vidence’

I pray increase my estate

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1726
Benjamin Franklin,
politician

‘This morning we stood in again for land; and we that had been here before all agreed that it was Cape Henlopen; about noon we were come very near, and to our great joy saw the pilot-boat come off to us, which was exceeding welcome. He brought on board about a peck of apples with him; they seemed the most delicious I ever tasted in my life; the salt provisions we had been used to gave them a relish. We had extraordinary fair wind all the afternoon, and ran above a hundred miles up the Delaware before ten at night. The country appears very pleasant to the eye, being covered with woods, except here and there a house and plantation. We cast anchor when the tide turned, about two miles below Newcastle, and there lay till the morning tide.’

Founding Father Franklin

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1802
Joseph Farington,
artist

‘At ¼past four oClock we dined & at Ten at night went on board the Packet which soon got under way. There were 15 people Passengers. In the Great Cabin there were 12 Bed places in two rows; the lowest very near the ground. I got an Upper Bed place & abt ½past 10 laid down, as did most of the Passengers. The night passed comfortably enough as I did not suffer the least inconvenience from the motion of the vessel. At eight oClock in the morning we were well on our way. A Calm of three Hours had delayed us in the night, but we now proceeded at the rate of 5 or 6 miles an hour. The Weather was Cloudy, but pleasant.

I had some conversation with one of the Passengers a Scotch Gentleman who was returning after having made a tour in France and Italy. He said when He arrived at Calais from England He purchased a Horse and rode the whole way from that town to Genoa where He disposed of his Horse & went on by other conveyances. He noticed how very generally the land in France was in a state of Agriculture, but He thought the people appeared to be but indifferent farmers. He mentioned how detested the French are by the Italians, and the English respected. He had coasted along part of the Shores of Italy in one of their Coasting vessels which He described as having subjected him to greater endurance than He had ever before suffered. It was the most disagreeable situation that can be imagined. He travelled from Genoa to Pisa, 150 miles, on Mules & had very bad accommodation on the way. The weather in Italy in the Summer was extremely hot.

We arrived off Brighton abt. a quarter past 2 oClock in the afternoon, when a Custom House boat came along side & took out all our Baggage, and the Passengers, and landed us at Brighton at three oClock. The fare from Dieppe to Brighton was a guinea and a half for each person, and two shillings 6d. to the Crew. We were conducted to the Custom House Office and our Trunks were more strictly examined than they had before been at any place. Some painting Brushes which I had brought over were detained. We each paid 3s. 6d. for this examination and our Trunks were then carried to the Old Ship Inn which we made our Head-quarters. On going to the Custom House Office again after their hurry of business was over, we found them disposed to let our Brushes pass with. paying duty as being articles of little value, nor did we pay any additional fee.

When I landed on the Beach John Offley was standing before me. Seeing a Vessel coming in from France He walked down to meet it thinking it possible that I might be a Passenger. We also met Mr Sharpe, who had been with us at Paris, and had lately brought his family to Brighton. Fuseli, Halls and myself dined together at the Inn & Sharpe came to tea. Fuseli’s anxiety & impatience to be in London had now so encreased that not being able to procure places in the Coach for tomorrow morning He & Halls at Eleven oClock set off in a Post Chaise. He said “His mind was in London” and He must go. He was there at breakfast the following morning.

Our excursion was thus completed. Our absence from England had been but short and I could not have expected that on returning any very sensible impression would have been made upon my mind. I had not prepared myself for any other than what France would make upon me. It proved otherways. I felt on my return a difference the most striking; it was expressed in everything; and may be explained by saying that it was coming from disorder to order. From Confusion, to convenience: from subjection to freedom. I no longer saw the people covered with the patches of necessity, or the ridiculous mixtures of frippery imitations of finery with the coarse clothing of poverty. All appeared appropriate and substantial, and every man seemed respectable because his distinct & proper Character was consistently maintained. What must be the nature of that mind that would not feel grateful that it was his Lot to be an Englishman; a man entitled from his Birth to participate in such advantages as in no other country can be found.

Such a state for man must naturally have an influence upon the manners of a people. It certainly was manifest to me that the difference in the deportment of the English when compared with the French, is as great as the causes which produce it. I could not be insensible to that Air of independence bordering upon haughtiness, which is manifested in the English Character, but is little seen among the people I had left. Wealth, and Security, and the pride of equal freedom, together habituate the mind to a conscious feeling of self importance that distinguishes the people of England from those of other Countries. But if this effect is produced, if there is less of what is called the Amiable, it is amply made up by a quality of a much higher kind, which is integrity. That is a word which the English may apply to their character by the consent of the whole world more universally than any other nation that exists in it.

The American who was at Dieppe rendered the panegyric of an Englishman unnecessary. He had been an inhabitant of France; Had traversed Germany; and was acquainted with Italy. He had experienced the varieties of each Country, and formed his judgment upon it. His decision was, “that each of the Countries had something to be admired, and something to be approved; But that there was but One England in the World.” ’

Farington, painter and diarist

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1806
Augusta, duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld

‘Merciful God, what terrible times we have lived through! The grim memories of these days of bloodshed will never leave me. Already at [half past eight] my niece sent for me. Her corner room overlooked on the one side Wladbergen, through which the road from Coburg passes. On the left, shots were falling at intervals, as well as in and around the little village of Garnsdorf, at the foot of the hills, where the Prussian Jagers were posted. The ground above the forest was also being occasionally shelled. Prussien Batteries were stationed in the fields near the high road to Rudolstadt, and on the road itself, Fusiliers.

Towards 8 o’clock Prince Louis Ferdinand arrived on the scene, rapidly followed by Horse Artillery and 2 Saxon Infantry Regiments. In the distance their fine band could be heard, and lastly our brace Saxon Hussars came by, at a quick trot.

Prince Louis Ferdinand accompanied by his ADCs reviewed all the Troops, his brave, debonnaire appearance creating a general sense of confidence.

One could see the enemy coming down the hills, and hear the tramping of the Infantry and the sound of bugles. The whole scene of bloodshed lay spread out before us. The fire of Prussian Battery was incessant, but the French guns seldom came into action. Their Cavalry emerged from the forest and streamed along in a never-ending and terrifying procession.’

Amply rewarded

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1841
Thomas Raikes,
businessman

‘I called on the Darners, and found them established in the house in Tilney Street, left them by Mrs. Fitzherbert. The Colonel is made Comptroller of the Queen’s Household, with which he is much pleased. I find London very much altered, and in some respects, such as the buildings and parks, very considerably improved. There is much magnificence and luxury in the great houses, and much bustle in the streets; but not that amusing variety which greet you at every step in Paris. The change in society has also become very apparent within the last few years. It was called, and perhaps justly, in my time, dissipated; but the leaders were men of sense and talent, with polished manners, and generally high-minded feelings. The young men of the day seem without any prominent feature of character; indifferent instead of fastidious; careless in their manner to the women, and making it the fashion to afficher a heartless, selfish tone of feeling, such as would not be tolerated in French society, where the women certainly maintain a social influence that is not to be observed here. There is a great deal of beauty in the London drawing-rooms; but hardly any of those égards pour les convenances which, abroad, is the simplest and most natural form of high breeding, and which is shown in dress as well as in manner and in language. Steam has here dissolved the exclusive system, and seems to have substituted the love of wealth for both the love of amusement and of social distinction.’

A mania for gossip

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1844
Barclay Fox,
businessman

‘The day came at last as all days must come if one waits long enough. The day that ended my old & commenced my new life - a change for the better I have not the smallest shadow of a doubt - the day that ends this daily journal, having living tablet to write upon instead, “The soul’s living home” as Coleridge calls it most truly.’

The day came at last

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1939
John Rupert Colville,
civil servant

‘My first day at No. 10. It began at 9.30 a.m. and finished at 6.30. In the course of it I met the Prime Minister, who was shy but welcoming, Mrs Chamberlain (who looks utterly vague), Sir Horace Wilson and Captain David Margesson. The latter said, “You know my daughters, I believe”, with a rather penetrating stare! [The penetrating stare was due to his knowledge that I was deeply in love with his younger daughter, who was beautiful, gay and intelligent.]

I sit in the same room as Miss Watson and Lord Dunglass. Miss Watson showed me how to deal with some of the enormous post which arrives every day now, and I also began looking into the question of the Ecclesiastical patronage with which I am to deal, and about which my predecessor, Jasper Rootham, came to talk to me in the morning.

I read with interest the various drafts, by the Prime Minister, Churchill, Cadogan, Vansittart and Corbin, suggested for the reply to Hitler's peace proposals. When the proposals are rejected it is thought likely that Hitler will launch a tremendous onslaught. For the moment calm reigns on land, sea and air.’

My first day at No. 10

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1943
Hélène Berr,
young woman

‘I have a duty to accomplish by writing because people must know. Each hour of the day the painful experience is repeated, that of noticing that others don’t know, that they don’t even imagine the suffering of others and the evil that some inflict on others.’

Raining death on earth

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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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