And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

15 October

1626
François de Bassompierre,
diplomat

‘Thursday the 15th, on which the Earl of Britswater came with the king’s coaches to fetch me to Hampton Court; then the duke shewed me into a gallery, where the king was waiting for me, who gave me a long audience and well disputed. He put himself into a great passion, and I, without losing my respect to him, replied to him in such wise, that, at last, yielding him something, he conceded a great deal to me. I witnessed there an instance of great boldness, not to say impudence, of the Duke of Boukinkam, which was, that when he saw us the most warmed, he ran up suddenly and threw himself between the king and me, saying, “I am come to keep the peace between you two.” Upon which I took off my hat, and as long as he staid with us I would not put it on again, notwithstanding all the intreaties of the king and of himself to do so; but when he went I put it on without the king’s desiring me. When I had done, and that the duke could speak to me, he asked me why I would not put on my hat while he was by, and that I did so, so freely, when he was gone. I answered that I had done it to do him honour, because he was not covered and that I should have been, which I could not suffer; for which he was much pleased with me, and often mentioned it in my praise. But I had also another reason for doing so, which was, that it was no longer an audience, but a private conversation, since he had interrupted us, by coming in, as a third, upon us. After my last audience was over, the king brought me through several galleries to the queen’s apartments, where he left me, and I her, after a long conversation; and I was brought back to London by the same Earl of Britswater.’

Bassompierre in London

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1711
Jonathan Swift,
writer

‘I sat at home till four this afternoon to-day writing, and ate a roll and butter; then visited Will Congreve an hour or two, and supped with Lord Treasurer, who came from Windsor to-day, and brought Prior with him. The Queen has thanked Prior for his good service in France, and promised to make him a Commissioner of the Customs. Several of that Commission are to be out; among the rest, my friend Sir Matthew Dudley. I can do nothing for him, he is so hated by the Ministry. Lord Treasurer kept me till twelve, so I need not tell you it is now late.’

Live ten times happier

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1750
Ralph Jackson,
landowner

‘In the forenoon Mr Presswick came up, & I went to the Hill for some potatoes & Horseradish. In the Evening Mr Charlton & the Master that he had built the Ship called the Fame for, sat the Evening. I gave on the Ship for Tamfields Coals, when the were gone we retired to bed betwixt Ten and Eleven.’

Apprentice Hostman and squire

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1756
Thomas Turner,
tradesman

‘This is the day on which I was married, and it is now three years since. Doubtless many have been the disputes which have happened between my wife and myself during the time, and many have been the afflictions which it has pleased GOD to lay upon us, and which we have justly deserved by the many anemosityes and desentions which have been continually fermented between us and our friends, from allmost the very day of our marriage; but I may now say with the holy Psalmist, ‘It is good for us that we have been afflicted;’ for, thanks be to GOD, we now begin to live happy; and I am thoroughly persuaded, if I know my own mind, that if I was single again, and at liberty to make another choice, I should do the same - I mean, make her my wife who is so now.’

Of briars, thorns and an angel

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1771
Count de Benyovszky,
soldier and explorer

‘On the 15th, the associates met by my order. I informed them, that I was assured that a number among them were discontented with me; for which reason 1 thought proper to declare to them, that all those who were desirous of seeking their fortune elsewhere, were at liberty to quit me; and that as they had all received a retribution at my hands at the island of Formosa, I thought myself acquitted from them. I had scarcely made an end, before Mr. Stephanow loaded me with invectives, and charged me with an intention of depriving the company of their share of the advantages I was about to receive, from the knowledge I had acquired during the voyage; and that the moderation I had shewn at Formosa, in delivering my share of the presents of Prince Huapo, was merely a scheme to deprive them of greater advantages. He then excited the companions to throw off my authority, by assuring them that he would secure them a large fortune the instant they should determine to put my papers in his hands, and follow his party. The infamous plot of this wretch was nothing extraordinary; hut when I understood that he was supported by Sir. Wynbladth, my ancient Major, the companion of my exile, and my friend, I was incapable of setting bounds to my indignation, and could not avoid declaring, that their proceedings were highly disgraceful; and to confound them, I displayed their secret projects to the company, and justified my words by shewing Mr. Jackson’s letter, which convinced them that Messrs. Stephanow and Wynbladth, under pretence of serving the company, were desirous of securing the five thousand pounds to their own use. They were highly irritated, and threatened them; but Stephanow preserved a party of eleven, with whom he went to my lodgings; and while I remained in conversation with my friends, he seized my box, in which he supposed my papers were deposited. As soon as I heard of this outrage, I went to his chamber, followed by twenty associates; and as he refused to open the door, I broke it down. On my entrance he fired a pistol at me, which missed. In consequence of this attempt, I gave orders for seizing and keeping him in strict confinement; and as it was necessary likewise to secure Mr. Wynbladth, I went to his chamber; but he had retired into the garden, armed with a pair of pistols and a sabre. I determined to shut him in, being convinced that he could not get over the walls on account of their great height. This whole affair passed without the least alarm without, as the doors of the house were shut.’

The king of Madagascar

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1811
Henry Crabb Robinson,
lawyer

‘Journey to London. Incledon the singer was in the coach, and I found him just the man I should have expected. Seven rings on his fingers, five seals on his watch-ribbon, and a gold snuff-box, at once betrayed the old beau. I spoke in terms of rapture of Mrs. Siddons. He replied, “Ah! Sally’s a fine creature. She has a charming place on the Edgeware Road. I dined with her last year, and she paid me one of the finest compliments I ever received. I sang “The Storm” after dinner. She cried and sobbed like a child. Taking both of my hands, she said, ‘All that I and my brother ever did is nothing compared with the effect you produce!’ ”

Her genius triumphed

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1890
Lafcadio Hearn,
writer and teacher

‘To-day I witnessed the annual athletic contests of all the schools in Shimane Ken. These games were celebrated in the broad castle grounds of Ninomaru. Yesterday a circular race-track had been staked off, hurdles erected for leaping, thousands of wooden seats prepared for invited or privileged spectators, and a grand lodge built for the Governor, all before sunset. The place looked like a vast circus, with its tiers of plank seats rising one above the other, and the Governor’s lodge magnificent with wreaths and flags. School children from all the villages and towns within twenty-five miles had arrived in surprising multitude. Nearly six thousand boys and girls were entered to take part in the contests. Their parents and relatives and teachers made an imposing assembly upon the benches and within the gates. And on the ramparts over-looking the huge enclosure a much larger crowd had gathered, representing perhaps one third of the population of the city.

The signal to begin or to end a contest was a pistol-shot. Four different kinds of games were performed in different parts of the grounds at the same time, as there was room enough for an army; and prizes were awarded for the winners of each contest by the hand of the Governor himself.

There were races between the best runners in each class of the different schools; and the best runner of all proved to be Sakane, of our own fifth class, who came in first by nearly forty yards without seeming even to make an effort. He is our champion athlete, and as good as he is strong, so that it made me very happy to see him with his arm full of prize books. He won also a fencing contest decided by the breaking of a little earthenware saucer tied to the left arm of each combatant. And he also won a leaping match between our older boys.

But many hundreds of other winners there were too, and many hundreds of prizes were given away. There were races in which the runners were tied together in pairs, the left leg of one to the right leg of the other. There were equally funny races, the winning of which depended on the runner’s ability not only to run, but to crawl, to climb, to vault, and to jump alternately. There were races also for the little girls, pretty as butterflies they seemed in their sky-blue hakama and many-coloured robes, races in which the contestants had each to pick up as they ran three balls of three different colours out of a number scattered over the turf. Besides this, the little girls had what is called a flag-race, and a contest with battledores and shuttlecocks.

Then came the tug-of-war. A magnificent tug-of-war, too, one hundred students at one end of a rope, and another hundred at the other. But the most wonderful spectacles of the day were the dumb-bell exercises. Six thousand boys and girls, massed in ranks about five hundred deep; six thousand pairs of arms rising and falling exactly together; six thousand pairs of sandalled feet advancing or retreating together, at the signal of the masters of gymnastics, directing all from the tops of various little wooden towers; six thousand voices chanting at once the “one, two, three,” of the dumb-bell drill: “Ichi, ni, - san, shi, - go roku, - shichi, hachi.”

Last came the curious game called “Taking the Castle.” Two models of Japanese towers, about fifteen feet high, made with paper stretched over a framework of bamboo, were set up, one at each end of the field. Inside the castles an inflammable liquid had been placed in open vessels, so that if the vessels were overturned the whole fabric would take fire. The boys, divided into two parties, bombarded the castles with wooden balls, which passed easily through the paper walls; and in a short time both models were making a glorious blaze. Of course the party whose castle was the first to blaze lost the game.

The games began at eight o’clock in the morning, and at five in the evening came to an end. Then at a signal fully ten thousand voices pealed out the superb national anthem “Kimi ga yo,” and concluded it with three cheers for their Imperial Majesties, the Emperor and Empress of Japan.

The Japanese do not shout or roar as we do when we cheer. They chant. Each long cry is like the opening tone of an immense musical chorus: A-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a!’

Lafcadio Hearn in Japan

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1899
Arthur Hamilton Baynes,
priest

‘As no one had asked me to preach to-day, I thought I might have a day off, especially as I know there are plenty of clergy about from the Transvaal and Newcastle. However, when I went to the early service at the Garrison Church, Twemlow asked me if I would preach to the men at 11, as he was asked to preach to the Imperial Light Horse at a special parade at St Saviour’s at 9.30. I felt rather guilty in doing nothing, so I said “Yes,” though it was rather short notice. The Rifles were there - the 2nd Battalion, which has just come out. I preached to them from the words in the second lesson, “With singleness of heart, fearing the Lord.” Things are very quiet to-day. I suppose the Boers would not choose Sunday for operations unless they were obliged. After luncheon I went in for a little chat with the Governor.

We live in a state of feverish excitement, waiting for each scrap of news and surrounded by startling rumours which turn out as a rule to be pure inventions. We rush for the morning paper and hail everyone we meet for news. There are rumours to-day of various kinds, but all untrue as it turns out. We cannot tell, and probably shall not know for some days, what is happening on the western border, about Mafeking and Kimberley. There are rumours of fighting, and we know that they are more or less isolated.’

On the look out for Boers

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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 Junction is one of those wonderful privately maintained public resources for which the Internet is justly celebrated: a database of information about celebrated and obscure diaries[over 500] from all historical periods, with referrals to the dates the diaries cover, where the originals are held and bibliographic information on published versions.’ Laura Miller, Salon

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