And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

9 October

John Evelyn,

‘I went with Mrs. Godolphin and my wife to Blackwall, to see some Indian curiosities; the streets being slippery, I fell against a piece of timber with such violence that I could not speak nor fetch my breath for some space; being carried into a house and let blood, I was removed to the water-side and so home, where, after a day’s rest, I recovered.’

A most excellent person


Jonathan Swift,

‘I was forced to lie down at twelve to-day, and mend my night’s sleep: I slept till after two, and then sent for a bit of mutton and pot of ale from the next cook’s shop, and had no stomach. I went out at four, and called to see Biddy Floyd, which I had not done these three months: she is something marked, but has recovered her complexion quite, and looks very well. Then I sat the evening with Mrs. Vanhomrigh, and drank coffee, and ate an egg. I likewise took a new lodging to-day, not liking a ground-floor, nor the ill smell, and other circumstances. I lodge, or shall lodge, by Leicester Fields, and pay ten shillings a week; that won’t hold out long, faith. I shall lie here but one night more. It rained terribly till one o’clock to-day. I lie, for I shall lie here two nights, till Thursday, and then remove. Did I tell you that my friend Mrs. Barton has a brother drowned, that went on the expedition with Jack Hill? He was a lieutenant-colonel, and a coxcomb; and she keeps her chamber in form, and the servants say she receives no messages. - Answer MD’s letter, Presto, d’ye hear? No, says Presto, I won’t yet, I’m busy; you’re a saucy rogue. Who talks?’

Live ten times happier


Jonathan Swift,

‘I have left Windsor these ten days, and am deep in pills with asafoetida, and a steel bitter drink; and I find my head much better than it was. I was very much discouraged; for I used to be ill for three or four days together, ready to totter as I walked. I take eight pills a day, and have taken, I believe, a hundred and fifty already. The Queen, Lord Treasurer, Lady Masham, and I, were all ill together, but are now all better; only Lady Masham expects every day to lie in at Kensington. There was never such a lump of lies spread about the town together as now. I doubt not but you will have them in Dublin before this comes to you, and all without the least grounds of truth. I have been mightily put backward in something I am writing by my illness, but hope to fetch it up, so as to be ready when the Parliament meets. Lord Treasurer has had an ugly fit of the rheumatism, but is now near quite well. I was playing at one-and-thirty with him and his family t’other night. He gave us all twelvepence apiece to begin with: it put me in mind of Sir William Temple. I asked both him and Lady Masham seriously whether the Queen were at all inclined to a dropsy, and they positively assured me she was not: so did her physician Arbuthnot, who always attends her. Yet these devils have spread that she has holes in her legs, and runs at her navel, and I know not what. Arbuthnot has sent me from Windsor a pretty Discourse upon Lying, and I have ordered the printer to come for it. It is a proposal for publishing a curious piece, called The Art of Political Lying, in two volumes, etc. And then there is an abstract of the first volume, just like those pamphlets which they call The Works of the Learned. Pray get it when it comes out. The Queen has a little of the gout in one of her hands. I believe she will stay a month still at Windsor. Lord Treasurer showed me the kindest letter from her in the world, by which I picked out one secret, that there will be soon made some Knights of the Garter. You know another is fallen by Lord Godolphin’s death: he will be buried in a day or two at Westminster Abbey. I saw Tom Leigh in town once. The Bishop of Clogher has taken his lodging for the winter; they are all well. I hear there are in town abundance of people from Ireland; half a dozen bishops at least. The poor old Bishop of London, at past fourscore, fell down backward going upstairs, and I think broke or cracked his skull; yet is now recovering. The town is as empty as at midsummer; and if I had not occasion for physic, I would be at Windsor still. Did I tell you of Lord Rivers’s will? He has left legacies to about twenty paltry old whores by name, and not a farthing to any friend, dependent, or relation: he has left from his only child, Lady Barrymore, her mother’s estate, and given the whole to his heir-male, a popish priest, a second cousin, who is now Earl Rivers, and whom he used in his life like a footman. After him it goes to his chief wench and bastard. Lord Treasurer and Lord Chamberlain are executors of this hopeful will. I loved the man, and detest his memory. We hear nothing of peace yet: I believe verily the Dutch are so wilful, because they are told the Queen cannot live.’

Live ten times happier


Benjamin Franklin,

‘We have had the wind fair all the morning; at twelve o’clock we sounded, perceiving the water visibly changed, and struck ground at twenty-five fathoms, to our universal joy. After dinner one of our mess went up aloft to look out, and presently pronounced the long wished-for sound, LAND! LAND! In less than an hour we could decry it from the deck, appearing like tufts of trees. I could not discern it so soon as the rest; my eyes were dimmed with the suffusion of two small drops of joy. By three o’clock we were run in within two leagues of the land, and spied a small sail standing along shore. We would gladly have spoken with her, for our captain was unacquainted with the Coast, and knew not what land it was that we saw. We made all the sail we could to speak with her. We made a signal of distress; but all would not do, the ill-natured dog would not come near us. Then we stood off again till morning, not caring to venture too near.’

Founding Father Franklin


Gideon Mantell,
doctor and scientist

‘As usual murdering my time - hosts of visitors but no patients! Rambled on the Chain Pier in the evening - very beautiful weather.’

Gideon Mantell - geologist


Thomas Raikes,

‘This morning, at breakfast, Arbuthnot gave the account of an extensive gang of swindlers in London, who had been lately detected by the Lord Mayor, and remarked how credulous and gullible the English tradesmen were, in becoming such easy dupes to their plots and rogueries.’

A mania for gossip


Barclay Fox,

‘Wedding-eve! My father & mother arrived at 9; the girls, with my Grandmother & Aunt C, in the afternoon. C has not lost her cough, but both give a clean bill of themselves & bright reports of their northern experiences. We dined at Southend with a large party, including 9 of the bridesmaids. At 7 William appeared seemingly well-strung-up to the occasion. We had much pleasant & interesting chat over the breakfast-room fire till the arrival of Uncle C & the lawyers put an end to it. He & William in conjunction with J Hodgkin & Edmund are our Trustees. This second legal visitation gave me the opportunity of a few last words with Jane who is all herself - free from frights & fancies, considerate of all, calm & self-possessed. No perturbation at the thought of tomorrow.’

The day came at last


Frances Stevenson,

‘Returned to the Office on October 7th, my birthday. On Tuesday C. turned in to see me, and we had a long chat together. He looked tired & worried at first, and I found that passing through Clapham had depressed him, calling up sad memories of Mair. He avoids Clapham as much as possible. He told me that Antwerp was in a bad way. The Govt, had that day decided to send some 20,000 men over to Ostend, in order to march on Antwerp and relieve it. They discovered however that the Admiralty had mined the sea right up to Ostend, making a landing impossible. The difficulty was to be overcome by sending a pilot ship with the troopships, & landing south of Ostend. The pilot ship to be supplied by the Admiralty. Some time after troops had started, it was discovered that the pilot ship had been forgotten, & that our troops were therefore in imminent danger of being blown up by our own mines. A torpedo-boat was therefore dispatched at full speed to recall troopships. This was done, & ships eventually re-started safely with pilot, but only after some hours delay. I fear they will not be able to save Antwerp. I cannot sleep for thinking of the horrible tortures that Belgium is undergoing.

On Wednesday C. went to Committee of Imperial Defence. It seems that Kitchener fears an attempted invasion as soon as the two armies are ‘stalemate’ in France. Both the P.M. and C. are convinced that this could not be successfully attempted.

C. & I had a very primitive dinner together at No. 11 (which is under repair) before C. departed for W.H.

Yesterday (Thursday) we dined again in the same primitive way. He was to have dined with Donald & friends, but decided to go straight to theatre instead. We had great fun. C. gave me a beautiful set of Barrie’s works for a birthday present. It is sweet of him, he was so keen about it, & it gives him such pleasure to give anyone a present. I was very touched. We hated leaving each other. C. said he might have been going to the war, judging from the parting we had.

Have not seen much of him today as he has been very busy in Board Room, with occasional flying visits in here. He has left for weekend at W.H. His last words. “Same address. ‘Virtuous’ - Walton Heath.”

Winston has returned from Antwerp, admitting failure, and blaming Kitchener & War Office for lack of foresight.’

We had great fun


James Evershed Agate,

‘Lunch with Alexander Korda who to my enormous astonishment turns out to be a man of great culture and distinction of mind. We talked about a lot of things including the Goncourts’ novels - which, he says, “are not so good as we thought when we were young men.” He insists that I shall help with his new film of Cyrano de Bergerac, and for the reason that his Hungarian nationality prevents him from detecting the finer shades of English verse. In the end I agree to do what he wants, and I hope my incursion into films will continue as pleasantly as it has begun.

In the evening go to the Reinhardt film of A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which Shakespeare is alleged to make his first appearance on the screen. He doesn’t!’

Not careless jottings


Alex Comfort,

‘In the afternoon of October the 9th we passed Ushant. The weather abated, and the waters began to depart from the face of the earth. With their going a silence settled upon the ship - broken only by the dismal “thump . . . swish . . . drip” as a wave came over - and remained undispelled even by the sight of the cook shaving bull’s trotters for the night’s soup with a safety razor. The last carcase swung idly on the bridge, which was now clear of most of its vegetables. There had been a day in the voyage, before we passed Finisterre, when the midday peace of the ship was shattered by a most terrible racket on the lower bridge. A hoarse shouting and a persistent swishing noise were blended with a wild yelling, and the observer, peering cautiously round the end of the captain’s quarters, could see the little man, a malacca cane fully a metre long in his hand, dashing about in pursuit of one of the little dogs, walloping wildly at everything within reach, and hitting chairs, table, sides of beef, and himself, but never under any circumstances his victim. Madame and the daughter stood wringing their hands and trying to arrest their lord and master’s progress as he thundered about, demolishing lifebelts and cucumbers, while the dog, more frightened than hurt, yelled as if the whole crew was cutting its throat.’

The mud of Dakar Bay


Anne Frank,
young woman

‘Our many Jewish friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. The Gestapo is treating them very roughly and transporting them in cattle cars to Westerbork, the big camp in Drenthe to which they’re sending all the Jews . . . If it’s that bad in Holland, what must it be like in those faraway and uncivilized places where the Germans are sending them? We assume that most of them are being murdered. The English radio says they’re being gassed. . . Have you ever heard the term ‘hostages’? That’s the latest punishment for saboteurs. It’s the most horrible thing you can imagine. Leading citizens - innocent people - are taken prisoner to await their execution. If the Gestapo can’t find the saboteur, they simply grab five hostages and line them up against the wall. You read the announcements of their death in the paper, where they’re referred to as ‘fatal accidents’.

This cruelty too shall end


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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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The Diary Review, hosted by Blogger, publishes magazine-style articles on diaries and diarists, several times a week. Now over ten years old, The Diary Review is the secondary source for the extracts in this online anthology.