And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

24 October

1626
François de Bassompierre,
diplomat

‘Saturday, 24th. I was to see the queen where the king came, with whom she pick’d a quarrel. The king took me to his chamber, and talked a great deal with me, making me complaints of the queen, his wife.’

Bassompierre in London

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1840
Elizabeth Smith,
writer

‘The Doctor was quite agitated yesterday in telling us of a most shocking piece of negligence - worse - neglect of positive duty in our Vicar and Curate. A girl thirteen years of age, for whom they are receiving an annuity from the County, allowed to live among papists, unacquainted with the nature of an oath, remembered two years ago to have said some prayers, etc. This shocks him and others because it came before them in a Court of Justice, where her testimony could not be received by the magistrates on account of her ignorance; but I could rake up fifty such cases or such like, where the total inattention of our clergy is every day increasing evils that a generation of better care will not eradicate. And people wonder that the reformed religion does not spread here. I wonder it is tolerated - it seems to fail to produce even in gentlemen an idea of their duty. What effect can it have on the poor. Mr. Moore is greatly more culpable than Mr. Foster - he knows his duty, which the other poor creature really does not - poor Ireland!’

A Highland diarist in Ireland

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1864
William Daunt,
politician

‘The stir we have made about Irish fiscal wrongs has compelled the Government to issue a tract in self-defence. This is a report to the Viceroy by Dr Neilson Hancock on the public accounts between Great Britain and Ireland, and it is precisely such a combination of balderdash, falsehood and impudence as might have been expected, reply. . .’

The Irish Difficulty

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1875
Heinrich Hertz,
engineer

‘The weather was so bad I could not go out. I read, mostly Wüllner’s Physics, and since I had previously known little about hydrostatics, I found it very interesting.’

Hertz and his radio waves

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1885
Friedrich von Holstein,
civil servant

‘In the enclosed letter, Radolinski bids me state that the Crown Princess has expressed the wish to see Hatzfeldt before his departure for London. She wants to win him over to supporting Battenberg, and will probably promise to receive and reinstate Countess Hatzfeldt provided Hatzfeldt keeps Battenberg in Bulgaria. His official duty will more likely be the exact opposite. The Chancellor is perfectly prepared to oblige the Russians by supporting their policy in Bulgaria; on the other hand he will not be at all sorry if the English adopt a stiffer attitude which involves them in a quarrel with the Russians. Hatzfeldt can to that extent oblige both sides, however odd that may sound.

In my reply to Radolinski I said I was a man of too little account to pass on such a request, and anyway I thought it probable that Hatzfeldt would in any case be recalled to Berlin to receive his instructions. I shall take care not to get my finger crushed between these two millstones; I saw in the spring where that leads to. But the Crown Prince and Princess seem to have picked on me for that very purpose. Besides Radolinski, Sommerfeld also reproached me recently for not making any advances to the Crown Prince and Princess and said I owed it to my position. We shall see which side is the more obstinate.

The Crown Princess told Radolinski that Battenberg could perfectly well become King of Bulgaria now, which would make things easier for the marriage. Had he not behaved magnificently and heroically? And the young Princess had confessed to her mother in Venice that if anything happened to him she would jump into a canal. ‘Fancy my poor child jumping into a canal’, said her mother to Radolinski, with tears in her eyes.

The whole thing is rather amusing. Far more serious is Herbert’s increasingly apparent inclination towards Russia and aversion to Austria. The son is not a trapeze artist like his father, who constantly kept the balance between them. Whereas the father’s preferences may privately lie with Russia, the son makes no attempt to conceal his feelings. If this is not changed we shall in a couple of years have not a Three Emperors’ Alliance, but a Two Emperors’ Alliance, and Austria will seek support elsewhere. That will certainly not accord with the Crown Prince’s policy.

I fail to understand the Chancellor at the moment. Three months ago, when the Kaiser was so feeble. His Highness spoke of the need for a political volte-face, and consequently dropped France and turned to England. But if we now consistently ill-treat Austria to please Russia, that will hardly be a change of policy which will suit the next Kaiser.

I heard again yesterday how completely out of favour Herbert is with the Crown Prince and Princess. Two days ago they gave a dance for Princess Wilhelm. When Their Imperial Highnesses saw Herbert’s name on the list of guests, they said: ‘Oh no, we don’t want him; we’d better just invite people from Potsdam.’ ’

The Gray Eminence

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1968
Thomas Merton,
priest

‘A visit to the Narendrapur-Ramakrishna Mission Ashram. College, agricultural school, poultry farm, school for the blind, and orphanage. Ponds, palms, a water tower in a curious style, a monastic building, and guesthouse. Small tomato and cucumber sandwiches, flowers, tea. We drove around in a a dark green Scout. Villages. Three big, blue buffaloes lying in a patch of purple, eating the flowers. Communists arguing under a shelter. Bengali inscriptions on every wall; they have an extraordinary visual quality. Large and small cows. Goats, calves, millions of children.

The Temple of Understanding Conference has been well organised considering the problems which developed. It could not be held in Darjeeling, as planned, because of the floods. Instead it has been put on at the Birla Academy in South Calcutta. It is more than half finished now. I spoke yesterday morning, but did not actually follow my prepared text. There were good papers by two rabbis, one from New York and one from Jerusalem, and by Dr. Wei Tat, on the I Ching. Also by Sufis, Jains and others.’

Befriending the Dalai Lama

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1993
Peter Clark,
administrator

‘I am in the office very early. The Hurd visit has been seen as a success. A tide is moving in our favour, an enhancement of Syria-British relations. Meanwhile the situation in Algeria gets grimmer by the day. The country is slipping into confusion and foreigners are being kidnapped and assassinated. At this rate the British Council will withdraw and there may be extra funds for Syria. Every cloud has a silver lining.’

Damascus diaries

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2007
Tomaž Humar,
mountaineer

‘I start out with my friend Jagat Limbu. We cross the glacier and weave our way through mixed rock and ice pillars under the main wall at 5800m. We stage our first bivy on a small ice platform at 5800 meters.’

Inside the ice hole

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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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