And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

13 September

1778
Peregrine Phillips,
lawyer

‘Took the liberty of surveying all the bathing-machines. Fine ladies going - fine ladies coming away. Observe them at the instant of bathing. How humiliating! They appear more deplorable than so many corpses in shrouds.’

Brighton in diaries

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1813
Francis Rawdon-Hastings,
politician

‘The Governor came to me after breakfast, and we went in minute detail through the state of the Presidency. I found him not at all easy respecting the dispositions of the army, which he regarded as sullen, though not inclined to immediate outrage. I remarked that such a temper was not surprising when nothing had been done to soothe the dissatisfactions remaining after the late convulsion; since which period the army, conscious of its own anxiety to return to its duty, had been left to feel itself as only resting under an ungracious pardon. It was recommended by me that every opportunity should be seized to cheer the officers and reanimate their honest pride.

Lieutenant-General Abercromby observed that my commissions implied a more continued and active intervention of the Governor-General with the other Presidencies than had hitherto existed; that it was what he had expected; and that the utility of such a connexion was in every view of public interest unquestionable. [. . .]

After the Governor was gone, we had a party of jugglers for the amusement of the children. Their deceptions, though well managed, were not so striking as their skill in balancing and their extraordinary precision in throwing up and catching a number of balls in rapid rotation. For both these last achievements it seems necessary that the attention of the performer should be aided by the cadence of a song which his comrades chant to him with great earnestness. One trick merits investigation. The juggler put a small ball into his mouthy whence smoke immediately issued. Soon after, he blew out flame strong enough to consume flax at a little distance. The ball must have been of the phosphorous which ignites with moisture. But the retaining it in the month after it was inflamed depends on a secret worthy of being ascertained.

I had some of the staff and other officers to dine with me. Our table was as regularly conducted as if household had been established for a year. I notice this to do justice to the attention and activity of the native servants, by whom alone everything was managed. An equal number of English servants, unaccustomed to act together, could not have been tutored to fulfil their business with similar accuracy.’

Meeting lionesses

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1826
Phebe Orvis,
housewife

‘Cloudy. Mrs Heath died this day. Finished my web. Sewing until 2 o’clock. They have a dance to the other house. My husband is there. Oh that he were at home attending prayers with his family but alas there is no hopes for such things.’

An extraordinary ordinary woman

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1852
Nassau William Senior,
lawyer and economist

‘We took the omnibus to Kilrush, and the steamer from thence to Tarbert, where we were forced to sleep, there being no means of getting on to Killarney the same day. The inn, however, though simple and unpretending, is excellent. The town is poor, but beautifully situated on an eminence overlooking the Shannon, and surrounded by woods.

When Bonaparte was at Elba, a Captain Flynn, of the Royal Navy, was presented to him. He asked Flynn (as was his custom) where he was born.

“On the banks of the Shannon,” answered Flynn. “Ay,” said Bonaparte, “the Shannon is a grand river, one of the finest in Europe, though you make little use of it. During the Peninsular War, all the grain-ships for the supply of your army in Spain used to rendezvous and lie at a little port in the Shannon, called Tarbert. Below the anchorage you have a 14-gun fort, well-built and strong. But a little lower down on the river is a hill, which overlooks and commands it. A small force might easily land in the night and occupy that hill, and then your fort would be useless.”

I verified these facts to-day. There is the anchorage, the small fort, beautifully placed on a little green conical eminence, and the unoccupied hill behind it, within musket-shot, from which you can look down into the fort, and could pick off every man at the guns.

The young women at Tarbert have the usual beauty of the South of Ireland. I met two girls this evening, bare-foot, ragged, but with the figures and walk of princesses - at least of the princesses of fairy-tales - regular features, and bright ruddy complexions. Simple food, an open-air life, and the absence of stimulants, of hard labour, of stays, and of superfluous clothing, are great beautifiers.’

Senior’s conversations

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1853
Henry Crabb Robinson,
lawyer

‘Brighton. Dr King called, and in the evening I called by desire on Lady Byron - a call which I enjoyed, and which may have consequences. Recollecting her history, as the widow of the most famous, though not the greatest, poet of England in our day, I felt an interest in going to her; and that interest was greatly heightened when I left her. From all I have heard of her, I consider her one of the best women of the day. Her means and her good will both great. “She lives to do good,” says Dr. King, and I believe this to be true. She wanted my opinion as to the mode of doing justice to Robertson’s memory. She spoke of him as having a better head on matters of business than any one else she ever knew. She said, “I have consulted lawyers on matters of difficulty, but Robertson seemed better able to give me advice. He unravelled everything and explained everything at once as no one else did.” ’

Weeds don’t spoil

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1864
Lewis Carroll,
writer

‘At Croft. Finished drawing the pictures in the MS copy of “Alice’s Adventures.” It was first told July 4, 1862. Headings written out (on my way to London) July 5, 1862. MS copy begun Nov 13, 1862. Text finished before Feb 10, 1864 [. . .]’

Dodgson in wonderland

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1932
Reader Bullard,
diplomat

‘Our messenger brought me a handbill which had been distributed to all the flats in his building. It orders each resident to collect six bottles, half a kilo of rags, half a kilo of bones, half a kilo of paper, three-quarters of a kilo of rubber, six kilos of old iron and one kilo of non-ferrous metal (brass, copper, etc.) and to hand them in. Quite impossible. Any scraps of old iron have been given in long ago. Paper is so short that the co-operatives give theirs customers fresh fish without paper. As for rubber - for a long time it has been impossible to buy a pair of galoshes unless you hand in an old pair.’

Inside Stalin’s Russia

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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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