And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

25 October

1626
François de Bassompierre,
diplomat

‘Sunday, 25. The Earls of Pembrac and Montgomery came to see me, then I went for the duke, whom I took to the queen’s, who made his peace with her; which I had brought about with infinite trouble. The king came in afterwards, and he also was reconciled with her, and caressed her very much - thanked me for having reconciled the duke and his wife - then took me to his chamber, where he showed me his jewels, which are very fine.’

Bassompierre in London

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1854
Charles Ash Windham,
soldier

‘Horsford had just pointed out to me the confused masses of French upon the hill to our right, and I had just gone to point out the same to the General, when up galloped Captain Ewart, of the 93rd, and ordered us (the 4th Division) off to Balaclava.

We got under arms immediately, and, on arriving at the scene of action, were informed that the Turks had run off to a man without firing a shot [a footnote by the Russell states: ‘This information was quite erroneous. The Turks defended No. 1 Redoubt very gallantly, and lost heavily’] running straight through our Cavalry Camp. The Russians instantly took possession of the position, but abandoned the greater portion of it on our approach.

The cavalry instantly went into action, and the Heavy Brigade did very well. Unfortunately the Light Brigade was ordered to charge, and they did so gallantly; but, being received by three times their numbers and three batteries of artillery, besides riflemen, they got cut up and driven back, losing about half their number.

The 4th Division got there just as this charge was being made, and the Russians abandoned two of the redoubts, retaining only the one furthest to the eastward.

Captain Nolan, who took the orders to Lord Cardigan, was killed, charging at the head of the Light Cavalry. Although a good fellow, from all I can learn, his conduct was inexcusable. His whole object appears to have been to have a charge at the Russians at any cost ; but he could not have chosen a worse time.

After the fight was over, and we had been pounded for the better portion of the day, we returned at night to camp, abandoning our original line as too extensive.

My leg wonderfully painful all day, but I held on.’

When the battle rages

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1854
Edward Hodge,
soldier

‘The Russians in great force attacked the outposts and forts garrisoned by the Turks, who were quickly turned out with a loss of 9 guns.

In fact the Turks, opposed by at least ten times their number, put up an heroic resistance which gave the allies more than an hour’s invaluable breathing space.

After suffering 170 casualties, they were driven from the first three redoubts. The Russians now poured infantry into these, and brought up to them a number of field-pieces. All this time Lucan could do nothing but make threatening demonstrations whilst falling back before the slowly advancing Russians, and ordering his horse artillery to try to reply to their much bigger guns. On Sir Colin Campbell’s advice, Lucan soon withdrew to the left, so as to be out of the line of fire of both the Russian guns and the 93rd, and in a position to attack the flank of the Russians should they charge the Scottish infantry. This now happened.

Their cavalry attacked the 93rd, who perceived them with a volley, and turned them.

The left column was only a small part of Liprandi’s mounted arm, perhaps 400 in number. Almost immediately after its defeat, a large body of cavalry came into the plain and were charged by the Greys and the Inniskillings. We were in reserve, and I brought forward our left and charged these cavalry in flank. The Greys were a little in confusion and retiring when our charge settled the business. We completely routed the hussars and cossacks, and drove them back.

They retired, and then Lord Raglan should have been satisfied. The Russians retired to a strong position, a valley with batteries on the heights in front and on each flank. There was a battery of 9 guns in front of us, and a body of cavalry, and all these batteries on the heights.

Lord Raglan ordered the light cavalry to charge these guns and cavalry. They did so in the most gallant manner, but at the sacrifice of nearly the Brigade. The guns played upon them at about 200 yards from the batteries in front and flank. They advanced, took the guns, and charged the cavalry, who met them well. They were so knocked to pieces by the guns that the cavalry overpowered them, and they were obliged to retire having lost in every regiment some two 3rds of their men and officers. We advanced to cover their retreat, but the batteries got our range and began cutting us up terribly. I was not sorry when we were ordered to retreat.

The Russians did not follow, or quit their strong position, and we remained on the ground till 8pm, when we were ordered to return to our camp, and to go to the rear some two miles, which we did.

Both my servants got brutally drunk, and I found them lying on their backs, and with difficulty I was enabled to save my baggage. I got up my bed in Forrest’s tent and slept there.

Our loss today was 1 killed (Ryan), 1 severely (Scanlan) and 4 slightly wounded.

Many officers of Light cavalry were killed, and a number slightly wounded. There were no infantry early in the morning, and when they did come they were not engaged. The light cavalry were murdered in doing work, when infantry should have been first engaged, and artillery were indispensable. A very fine, warm day.’

Charge of the Light Brigade

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1855
Jane Carlyle,
wife of philosopher

‘ “Oh good gracious alive”! what a whirlwind - or rather whirl-pool of a day! Breakfast had “passed off” better or worse, and I was at work on a picture-frame, my own invention and pretending to be a little “work of art”; when Mr C’s bell rang like mad, and was followed by cries of, “come! come! are you coming?” Arrived at the second landing, three steps at a time, I saw Mr C and Ann in the spare bed room, hazily, thro’ a waterfall! The great cistern had overflowed; and it was “raining and pouring down” thro’ the new ceiling, and plashing up on the new carpet! All the baths and basins in the house and even “vessels of dishonour” were quickly assembled on the floor, and I on my knees mopping up with towels and sponges. When the water ceased to pour thro the ceiling, it began to pour thro the roof of the bed! If the water had only been clean! but it was black as soot, and the ground of the carpet white! At last it faired in the Spare Room, and I retired to change my shoes and stockings, which were soaked, as if I had been fishing while doing this, I became aware of a patter-pattering in the drawing room; and looking in, perceived a quite romantic little lake on the green Brussels carpet! There too the water had flooded half the ceiling. More mopping with towels and sponges, and another pair of shoes and stockings soaked. Finally, after three hours of this sort of thing, I came down to the parlour fire; and the first thing I saw was great black splashes of wet on the parlour ceiling! What am I to do with all these spoiled ceilings and carpets? And how is ‘the water’ to be prevented coming again when it likes?

In spite of this disaster on the premises, and the shocking bad temper induced by it, I have had to put on my company-face to night and ‘receive’ [guests]. Decidedly I must have a little of “that damned thing called the milk of human kindness” after all; for the assurance that poor Mrs George was being amused kept me from feeling bored.

And I have no notion of bed; would rather go on writing - ever so many pages “about feelings”; my heart is so very sore tonight! But I have promised myself not to make this Journal a miserere. so I will take a doze of morphia and do the impossible to sleep.’

I walked, walked, walked

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1932
Abraham Plotkin,
trade unionist

‘Off at last. Don’t know what I am heading for. I probably would have changed my mind about going if some occult wisdom had given me foresight. Here is to prayer that my hindsight will prove to be as exciting as my lack of foresight.

This is my second sea voyage . . . The first one was thirty years ago. The year McKinley was shot. I came to the shores of the land that became my native land with wonder and dreams and the vague hopes of a child. Or was it a sense of escape from the dark shadows of terror that hovered over Czarist Russia. The ghetto in old Russia then was neither picturesque nor pleasant. Those qualities of the ghetto, I suspect were discovered in America. Now I am going back. What for? I hardly know. Perhaps I am going so as to escape the humdrum of everyday city life in my own country. Perhaps my eyes have gotten tired of seeing the forms and people and things. I don’t really know. I mean that if I have any motive in going it’s stuck deep down in me, so far down that as yet I haven’t see either sight or sound of it. Perhaps later when and if I become aware of it I’ll feel as silly as I look. One never can really tell how foolish one is.’

Plotkin’s Berlin; Carano’s Stalag

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1942
Patricia Highsmith,
writer

‘I believe people should be allowed to go the whole hog with their perversions, abnormalities, unhappinesses, [. . .] Mad people are the only active people, they have built the world.’

My guiding darkness

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2007
Tomaž Humar,
mountaineer

‘We remain in our bivy at 5800 meters all day due to strong winds and stomach problems. Moreover, I did not feel acclimatized. I had only climbed Tharpu Chuli (5690 m) as a warm-up peak and did not sleep higher than 5300 meters. These are insufficient altitudes to adequately acclimate for an 8000 meter peak.’

Inside the ice hole

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1996
Paul K. Lyons,
writer

‘[Wistman’s] wood was beautiful. The oaks were indeed small old and decrepit and covered in moss and lichens some of which was hanging down and reminded me of the Longfellow poem Evangeline. The clinging mist and rain added to the atmosphere making it seem, if anything, that much more of an ancient place. We clambered around the moss-covered boulders through which the trees had been growing for so many years and inspected the different trees, admiring the patterns of the gnarled and partly dead branches and the various flora they supported, not least good strong ferns growing among the lichen and moss.’

Gabrielle, Celestine or Evangeline?

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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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