And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

28 October

John Rutty,

‘Poverty of spirit in a sense of my own vileness in God’s presence; yet humbly hoped for the blessing annexed to them that hunger and thirst after righteousness.’

A vicious feast


William Wilberforce,

‘God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners.’

God’s work against slavery


John Everett Millais,

‘My man, Young, brought me a rat after breakfast. Began painting it swimming, when the governor made his appearance, bringing money, and sat with me whilst at work. After four hours rat looked exactly like a drowned kitten. Felt discontented. Walked with parent out to see Collins painting on the hill, and on, afterwards, to Young’s house. He had just shot another rat and brought it up to the house. Again painted upon the head, and much improved. . . My father and myself walked on to see Hunt, whose picture looks sweet beyond mention.’

At work on Ophelia


James Hannington,

‘(Seventh day’s prison.) A terrible night, first with noisy, drunken guard, and secondly with vermin, which have found out my tent and swarm. I don’t think I got one hour’s sound sleep, and woke with fever fast developing. O Lord, do have mercy upon me and release me. I am quite broken down and brought low. Comforted by reading Psalm xxvii.

In an hour or two fever developed rapidly. My tent was so stuffy that I was obliged to go inside the filthy hut, and soon was delirious.

Evening: fever passed away. Word came that Mwanga had sent three soldiers, but what news they bring they will not vet let me know.

Much comforted bv Psalm xxviii.’

The bishop in Buganda


Natsume Soseki,

‘Left Paris for London. There was a hard and bitter wind on board. I arrived at London in the evening.’

A giant of Japanese literature


Sophia Tolstoy,
wife of writer

‘Lev Nik. has left! My God! He left a letter telling me not to look for him as he had gone for good, to live out his old age in peace. The moment I read those words I rushed outside in a frenzy of despair and jumped into the pond, where I swallowed a lot of water, Sasha and Bulgakov dragged me out with the help of Vanya Shuraev. Utter despair. Why did they save me?’

He was my diary


Ruth Crawford Seeger,

‘I felt more powerfully than ever today what poems people are; not the part of them that speaks, but the mysterious, intricate network of thoughts and feelings which remain unexpressed.’

What poems people are


André Gide,

‘In bed since Friday evening. A sort of colonial diarrhea; that is, bleeding. Starvation diet. A few griping pains, but bearable after all. Impression of a crossing (with possible shipwreck), having broken off all connections with the outer world, or at least with society. An excellent excuse for refusing invitations and failing to receive any but a few intimate friends. No worry about going out even to get my meals. A very long and unbroken succession of hours, of undifferentiated hours. I hardly dare confess how delighted I am, for fear of seeming affected. The conventional is the only thing that never looks like ‘pose’. I shall finally be able to finish Der Zauberberg! [The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann].

But before getting back to it; for I am still a bit too weak for that effort (in two days I have lost almost a quart of blood and eaten nothing since Friday morning), I am reading Maxime by Duvernois - much less good than Edgar and a few others - then launch into Le Soulier de Satin [The Satin Slipper by Paul Claudel].

Yesterday a visit from [Paul] Valéry. He repeats to me the fact that, for many years now, he has written only on order and urged on by a need for money.

‘That is to say that, for some time, you have written nothing for your own pleasure?’

‘For my own pleasure?’ he continues. ‘But my pleasure consists precisely in writing nothing. I should have done something other than writing, for my own pleasure. No, no; I have never written anything, and I never write anything, save under compulsion, forced to, and cursing against it.’

He tells me with admiration (or at least with an astonishment full of consideration) about Dr de Martel, who has just saved his wife; about the tremendous amount of work that he succeeds in getting through every day and about the sort of pleasure, of intoxication even, that he can get from a successful operation and even from the mere fact of operating.

‘It is also the intoxication of abnegation,’ I say. At this word abnegation Valéry pricks up his ears, leaps very amusingly from his chair to my bedside, runs to the hall doorm, and, leaning out, shouts:

‘Bring some ice! Boy, bring some ice! The patient is raving . . . He is ‘abnegating’!’

At many a point in the conversation I am aware that he thinks me quite entangled in pietism and sentimentality.’

Gide’s self-scrutiny


Anthony Eden,

‘He has never fought for his own hand . . . The policy is as good as can be expected in the circumstances and it now remains for Simon to go for it. Anyway the ink wells at the F.O. are dry and if the Cabinet will not have it Simon should ask them to send someone else to Geneva.’

The 1st Earl of Avon


Harold Macmillan,

‘. . . It is now possible to form a view of what has happened at this election. The nation is evenly divided - almost exactly even. For if allowance is made for unopposed returns, the votes cast on either side are just about the same. The Liberal party has practically disappeared in the House of Commons. But whereas last time they polled over 2 million votes in the country, this time (since they had only 100 odd candidates) the Liberals have had only the choice of abstention, voting Conservative, or voting Socialist in 500 odd constituencies. As far as one can see, north of the River Trent they have gone 2 to 1 - 2 Conservatives, to 1 Socialist. This is very marked in Scotland, and in places like Durham and North Yorkshire which have suffered under the Socialist tyranny. By this means both Middlesborough and Darlington were won by us. In the midlands, the Liberal vote has either abstained, or gone fifty-fifty or even worse. This explains Lincoln, Birmingham, Nottingham etc. The Liberals of this area have too much of the Civil War radical and roundhead tradition to join a cavalier vote. In suburban constituencies, like Bromley, the Liberals have split on a class basis. The bourgeois Liberal, pillars of chapel and League of Nations Union and all that, voted for me. (2 to 1 was about the figure, but 3/4 only voted - the rest abstained.)

So the result is, once again, a moral stalemate. This follows a long innings by a Govt wh has made a tremendous number of mistakes; has egregious failures in administration; and has been thrown about, like a rudderless hip in a storm, from crisis to crisis. At first sight, therefore, one can only form the most gloomy forebodings about the future. [. . .]

Message from Churchill to come out to Chartwell. I expected this. On arrival, at 3pm, found him in a most pleasant and rather tearful mood. He asked me to ‘build the houses for the people’. What an assignment! I know nothing whatever about these matters, having spent 6 years now either on defence or foreign affairs. I had, of course, hoped to be Minister of Defence and said this frankly to Churchill. But he is determined to keep it in his own hands. I gather the reason is the frightful muddle in which defence has been allowed to fall. In this ‘setup’ the service ministers become in effect under-secretaries (in spite of their grand titles) and will not be members of the Cabinet. I asked Churchill what was the present housing ‘set-up’. He said he hadn’t an idea. But the boys would know. So the boys (Sir Edward Bridges, Head of the Civil Service and Sir Norman Brook, Secretary to the Cabinet) were sent for - also some whisky. It seems that there is much confusion in all this business. Broadly speaking, the old ministry of Town and Country Planning retains these functions, but is now called Ministry of Local Government and Planning. All teh functions of supervising local govt in general remain with it. [. . .]

When I get home, I begin to realise what a terrible burden I have undertaken. Churchill is grateful and will back me; but 1 really haven't a clue how to set about the job. (Among other minor problems, James Stuart, who is motoring south, has disappeared! But he is wanted, to be Secretary of State for Scotland. Nobody can say the Tories stand about waiting for office. It is a job to get hold of them!)

Went in to talk all this over with Maurice. Carol came to dinner. (I have now a lot to arrange - first of all, with my brother and affairs at St Martin’s St). So to bed. What a day!’

We are in, easily


Hasan di Tiro,

‘On Thursday, October 28, 1976. at 2 PM. I boarded the boat that will take me to Acheh Sumatra from a mainland port of Asia with a dozen crew and about 15 guards. The boat is a 250 tonner, just a comfortable size to cross the Malacca Straits. The weather has been rough in the Andaman Sea for the last two weeks as the monsoon season is due to begin, but we are lucky to have a break of a fair weather just at the beginning of that day. As we begin sailing Southward we have a spectacular view of the mountain ranges and the green hilly islands emerging from the sea. When the sky is cloudy, the sea water here looked emerald green, and when the sky is blue, the water is also blue. When the nightfall, the dark tropical sky are strewn with countless bright stars, big and small, and as it was the beginning of the lunar month, the crescent has also appeared just above the horizon surrounded by other twinkling stars. The view is breathtakingly dramatic and peaceful. It is the calm before the storm. The purpose of my voyage has nothing to do with my surroundings. It is the antithesis of all appearances.

Many thoughts cross my mind. I think of Ceasar ’s crossing of the Rubicon that led to the civil war in Rome. My Rubicon is vastly larger and my crossing will not result in a civil war but in a national unity and in a war of national liberation to free my people from foreign domination, from the yoke of Javanese colonialism. I thought of Ceasar ’s landing in Spain, in Lerida. where he conquered the country in 40 days. But Ceasar had a legion with him. I have nothing. I come back alone - unarmed. I have no instrument of power. I brought only a message: that of national salvation and survival of the people of Acheh Sumatra as a Nation, and a reputation of a Tiro-man. No one inside the country knew of my coming or the implication of it. I face the Javanese Indonesian colonialist troops, half-a-million men strong, equipped with most modem weapons, experienced in guerilla-warfare, and had just massacred 2-million people who dared to oppose it. Yes. here I come. There is no turning back.

I thought of Napoleon ’s landing from Egypt under a vastly different circumstance. And of his landing at the Gulf of Juan from Elba. This last one must have been the most spectacular feat of personal history. I thought of Fidel Castro ’s landing in Cuba with his two-hundred comrades. I search for precedence, for guidance. I found none. Because I must face the fact that I come alone: without friend, without amis - none of my guards will be landing with me, - and without foreign backing: I do not come home to replace one colonialism with another. And yet my mission is to save my people from oblivion, to free my country from foreign domination which means to wage war of national liberation: in short to redeem the past and to justify the future of the Achehnese as a nation. Obviously the odds against me are overwhelming. But that did not stop me. I must do what I have to do.

I thought of what H. J. Schmidt had written about my family history in his book. Mareahaussee in Atjeh, published long ago that no matter what was the odd against him, a Tengku di Tiro would stand up and fight like a hero. A Tengku di Tiro will not accept defeat: he deems only two things acceptable for him: either victory, or else death. These are men, who in the free choice between life and death, would choose the latter. The last surviving Tengku di Tiro will die in the battlefield, and sooner or later will be followed by another, and another. This is going to be the last scene of every Act of a continuing Achehnese Drama that by now can no longer be played in any other way. The poignancy of this historical precedence and its relevancy to my present situation - I being the latter of the di Tiro, and the next chapter of Achehnese History is self-evident. And yet I did not do what I am doing in order to keep a record, but I did what came naturally to me. what I felt I must do. ’

Life as a guerilla warrior


Tomaž Humar,

‘The alarm goes off at 6am. I have not slept. I have just been waiting and waiting for a good moment to leave. The sky is clear. The wind is strong: and cold (I had been warned by Swiss weather not to cross the ridge due to strong winds from the Jet Stream). I climb very light carrying just 2 liters of juice which freeze within the first hour. After two hours, I make it to the East Ridge at 7500 meters where Loretan and Joss passed in 1984. Despite very strong winds, I continue towards the East Summit. By 10am, I have crossed most of the East ridge and the summit feels close at hand. With each passing hour, the wind grows stronger. As I climb higher, ice and snow falls increase in intensity and frequency and the risk of avalanche becomes more extreme. I am standing on the East Summit at 8047 meters before 3pm. I trust God, I pray, I feel safe! Even if the weather is good I would never dare to continue to the main summit at 8091 m as God gave me the possibility to reach it already once in 1995. It was my first 8000 m, this is the only answer I have to why I chose Annapurna, it’s 20 years since alpinism became ‘my way of life’. I immediately begin my descent.’

Inside the ice hole


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And so made significant . . .
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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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