And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

15 September

1717
John Thomlinson,
priest

‘Two men endeavoured to ravish a woman. Uncle took notice of it in his sermon, it had no less punishment assigned by our law than death, this startled the audience.’

In search of a rich wife

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1813
Francis Rawdon-Hastings,
politician

‘Went, as soon as it was light, to the fort, in order to inspect the works and to enable myself to judge of the system of exterior fortification proposed for the black town. The drawings had been shown to me the day before by Major-General Trapaud, the chief engineer. Fort St. George is a very respectable fortress, such as ought to sustain a long siege could a regular army sit down before it. Everything was in excellent condition. The water in the tanks, of which there is six months’ supply for 10,000 men, is remarkably transparent and sweet, though it is said to have been in the tanks above thirty years. This resource is necessary, lest an enemy should discover and cut off the pipes by which water is brought to the Port from a considerable distance.

At eleven I received the visit of the Nawab, who came in great state, and dressed out with a profusion of jewels. I met him at the door, and, on his stepping from his carriage, embraced him, according to the etiquette, four times, giving three embraces to each of the three sons and the nephew whom he introduced to me. I led him upstairs, our arms being over each other’s shoulders, while I gave my left arm to the eldest son.’

Meeting lionesses

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1826
Francis Lieber,
philosopher and teacher

‘With Mr. Greaves to the Refuge of the Destitute, where he wishes me to give instruction in gymnastic exercises gratis. This is a good idea, and I am willing to do it.’

Lieber’s Life and Letters

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1852
Nassau William Senior,
lawyer and economist

‘The Muckross Hotel is ill-situated. The woods of Mr. Herbert’s beautiful place, Muckross Abbey, cut off the view of the lakes. [. . .] We dined with Mr. Herbert. I spoke of the waste state of the greater part of the land between Tarbert and Killarney.

“It is much worse than waste,” said Mr. Herbert. “All that man has done there is mischief. Much of the land which you saw yesterday is good land. Ragweed, indeed, does not flourish on any other. But in order to make it worth cultivating, the first thing to be done is to level the innumerable mounds with which the misdirected industry of its occupiers has intersected it; and the next is to relieve it from the exhaustion to which the alternation of oats and potatoes, and the permanence of weeds, unaccompanied by manure, have reduced it.”

We talked of the squalid appearance of Killarney its ragged half-starved population, and ruinous houses. I said that it reminded me of Fondi or Itri, or the other desolate dilapidated towns between Gaeta and Rome. He thought that I did injustice to Fondi. Wretched as it is, it seemed to him less wretched than Killarney.

“To what,” I said, “do you attribute the peculiar misery of Killarney?”

“I do not think,” answered Mr. Herbert, “that it is peculiarly miserable for an agricultural town in the South of Ireland without trade or manufactures. The deserted houses are the results of death or emigration. The half-starved and quarter-clothed loungers about the streets are attracted thither from the neighbouring country by the hope of casual employment from visitors. What may be called the middle classes - that is, those above the labourers and cottiers - spent the greater part of their little capital during the famine, the successive potato failures have diminished what remained, and the low prices of agricultural produce prevent their recovering their losses.

I will give you a proof of the poverty of this neighbourhood. Kerry and Clare are both bare of wood: the people at Listowel are forced to go fifteen miles off - to Tarbert, or to Tralee - to get even handles for their flails. I was able, therefore, before the famine to sell the thinnings of my woods for rather more than 1,000l a year. Now they do not pay for the cutting.” ’

Senior’s conversations

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1860
William Sydney Clements,
landowner

‘Went to Mohill Poor House. Was shot at in the Main Street of Mohill by James Murphy from the door of his house in that town about half past one in the afternoon. The ball struck the house near me, the splinters fell on me. James Murphy was arrested and committed.’

Splinters fell on me

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1903
Raja Varma,
artist

‘Received a cheque for Rs 300 from Sir Arthur Mundrial Fund being the balance due for a portrait of the Ex-Governor. In the afternoon visited the old pictures in the different parts of the palace. None of the old pictures could[?] be made out. Of course the best pictures are those by the European painters. We were [sic] are pleased to hear that the Ooman Palli Kara [Omanpallikara] appeal was dismissed by the Dewan. The other party intends instituting a civil suit against us.’

Painting with brother

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1930
Joseph Goebbels,
politician

‘I am shaking with excitement. The first election results. Fantastic. Jubilation everywhere, an incredible success. It’s stunning. The bourgeois parties have been smashed. So far we have 103 seats. That’s a tenfold increase. I would never have expected it. The mood of enthusiasm reminds me of 1914, when war broke out. Things will get pretty hot in the months ahead. The Communists did well, but we are the second-largest party.’

We can conquer the world

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1965
Richard Crossman,
politician

‘Anne and I motored over to Warwick University, which is in a very pleasant Coventry suburb. Astounding progress has been made there in twelve months. They are using very modern techniques of industrialized building and the new sections are being run up incredibly quickly. I found it difficult talking to Jack Butterworth, who is a very old friend, because I knew too much about the relations between Warwick University and the city authorities. When I was Shadow Science Minister I became more and more convinced that one of the biggest jobs for the next Labour Secretary of State for Education was to break down the rigid division between higher education and further education and institute a unitary approach as against the existing binary approach. At that time I saw this extremely clearly in Coventry itself. It seemed obvious that one should try and integrate the Lanchester College of Technology, the new university and the first-rate teacher training college which for years has been on the site adjacent to the university campus. Indeed, one of the last things I did before the election was to ask Harold Wilson to come down and make a speech at the Lanchester against the binary policy, although I knew that officials in the Ministry were firmly committed to it. Alas! in 1964 when Michael Stewart took over, he quietly accepted the departmental line because there was nothing in the Party policy about committing us to repeal it. When Michael went and Tony replaced him I felt it was unfair to intervene, since I remembered how much I resented any intervention by Michael Stewart in my rents problem (he had been Shadow Minister of Housing). But I was disappointed to hear that he had decided to maintain the binary system, and I was greatly disconcerted when I learnt later on that he was by no means convinced in his own mind that it was right. I have always wondered since then whether he mightn’t have changed his mind if I had really gone in to bat when he first took over.

Still, those are all speculations which one shouldn’t waste time on. I had an excellent time with Butterworth, and informal talks with a number of his staff. I safely caught the 3.20 train and was up in time for my first meeting of the liaison committee at 6 in George Wigg’s room.

Taking over as chairman was tricky because Transport House was deeply suspicious of me and George himself is a most erratic, difficult, crabby man.

I went away after an hour and a half feeling fairly depressed, saying to myself, ‘Well, I have either asserted my authority or I have got myself into an unholy row.’ I was sure I had got Marcia Williams’s support but I wasn’t sure of much else.

I found it difficult to keep my attention fully on the meeting because of something which had happened just before I went across to Palace Yard. Into my office came copies of the Evening Standard and the Evening News, each containing the announcement that the London boroughs had jointly decided on a common policy of requiring a five-year residence qualification for anybody to get a council house in Greater London. This shocked me. And not only that: I had spent a great deal of time working out a speech I was due to deliver on Thursday morning to the annual meeting of the Institute of Housing Managers in Brighton, which contained a slashing attack on the reactionary attitude many housing authorities display to immigrants and the point that cities laying down a five- or six-year residence qualification were objectively committing racial discrimination. Peter Brown and Bob Mellish were in a state of great excitement about the speech. All I knew was that the press release I had prepared would not do as it would be regarded by everyone as a direct reaction by the Minister to the announcement from the boroughs.

I had to leave the liaison committee meeting in order to go across to No. 10 for a cocktail party Harold was giving to the industrial correspondents. I stayed about ten minutes, long enough for Geoffrey Goodman to tell me that he thought the reaction to George Brown’s National Plan would be lousy. The press had had the plan that day and had been working on it in preparation for Thursday morning.

From Downing Street I went on to Crosland’s house where I had a most amiable evening with him and his wife Susan - so delightful that I talked politics far too freely and felt a delicious, racy, scandalized joy in doing so.’

My room is like a padded cell

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1995
Brian Eno,
musician

‘Serious interview in morning (with whom now escapes me). Home, into office quickly, then to meet girls from school; in taxi to Golborne Road. Went to buy fish with them, the fishmen proudly showing them live lobsters. I find it difficult to justify meat-eating to kids. There’s a gap in my grasp of things. Many gaps, many things.’

Happy birthday Brian Eno

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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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