And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

1 September

1774
Nicholas Cresswell,
tradesman and farmer

‘This Island is one of the most windward and eastward of the West India Islands [. . .] about 20 Miles long and 12 broad, contains about 20,000 White Inhabitants and 90,000 Blacks. Exports about 20,000 Hhds of Sugar and 6000 Hhds. of Rum annually. They are supplied with the greatest part of their provisions from the Colonies and all their slaves and lumber come from there, with Horses and Livestock of all kinds. In exchange for which they give Rum, Sugar and Cotton, but very little of the last article. It is a high rocky Island and reckoned the most healthy Island in the West Indies. I suppose there is one eighth part of the land too rocky for cultivation. The roads are very bad. It is nothing uncommon to see twelve yoke of oxen to draw one Hhd. of Sugar, but their cattle are very small. Their chief produce is Sugar, Indigo, Pimento and Cotton. The Pimento grows on large Trees like small berries, the Cotton on small bushes which they plant annually. The Indigo is planted in the same manner. [. . .]

This is the chief Town in the Island and was pretty large, but a great part of it burned down in the Year 1766 and is not yet rebuilt. Here is a Good Church dedicated to St. Michael, with an Organ. The Church yard is planted round with Coco Trees which makes a pretty appearance. The houses are built of stone, but no fireplaces in them only in the Kitchen. The heat of the climate renders that unnecessary, only for cooking. Indeed it would be insupportable was it not for the Sea breeze which blows all day, and from the Land at Night. All the S.E. Part of the Island is fortified with Batteries, the windward part of the Island is fortified by nature. No Garrison or Soldiers here, only the militia which are well disciplined to keep the Negroes in awe. The Planters are in general rich, but a set of dissipating, abandoned, and cruel people. Few even of the married ones, but keep a Mulatto or Black Girl in the house or at lodgings for certain purposes. The women are not killing beauties or very engaging in their conversation, but some of them have large fortunes, which covers a multitude of imperfections. The British nation famed for humanity suffers it to be tarnished by their Creolian Subjects - the Cruelty exercised upon the Negroes is at once shocking to humanity and a disgrace to human nature. For the most trifling faults, sometimes for mere whims of their Masters, these poor wretches are tied up and whipped most unmercifully. I have seen them tied up and flogged with a twisted piece of Cowskin till there was very little signs of Life, then get a dozen with an Ebony sprout which is like a Briar. This lacerates the skin and flesh, and lets out the bruised blood, or it would mortify and kill them. Some of them die under the severity of these barbarities, others whose spirits are too great to submit to the insults and abuses they receive put an end to their own lives. If a person kills a slave he only pays his value as a fine. It is not a hanging matter. Certainly these poor beings meet with some better place on the other side the Grave, for they have a hell on earth. It appears that they are sensible of this, if one may judge from their behaviour at their funerals. Instead of weeping and wailing, they dance and sing and appear to be the happiest mortals on earth.’

Whores and rogues

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1813
Francis Rawdon-Hastings,
politician

‘Set out at dawn of day to review on the open ground in front of the fort the troops stationed at Madras. Very heavy rain had fallen in the night, accompanied by much lightning, during which the jackals were loudly clamorous in our garden. As those animals are rather useful in destroying minor vermin and carrion, they meet with little annoyance from either whites or natives. The morning was fine; the ground had been improved by the wet. The line consisted of the King’s 89th regiment, five battalions of sepoys, and a rifle corps, and the Governor’s bodyguard. They were in perfectly good order. Their deploying from column and changes of front were done with great regularity and precision. I seized this opportunity to address to the whole of the Madras army an order calculated to cheer its feelings and awaken its confidence.’

Meeting lionesses

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1829
Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville,
civil servant

‘Went to Brighton on Saturday last to pay Lady Jersey a visit and shoot at Firle. Jersey and I shot 376 rabbits, the greatest number that had ever been killed on the hills. The scenery is very fine - a range of downs looking on one side over the sea, and on the other over a wide extent of rich flat country. It is said that Firle is the oldest park in England. It belongs to Lord Gage. [. . .]

I heard at Brighton for the first time of the Duke of Wellington’s prosecution of the ‘Morning Journal,’ which was announced by the paper itself in a paragraph quite as scurrilous as those for which it is attacked. It seems that he has long made up his mind to this measure, and that he thinks it is a duty incumbent on him, which I do not see, and it appears to me to be an act of great folly. He stands much too high, has performed too great actions, and the attacks on him were too vulgar and vague to be under the necessity of any such retaliatory measure as this, and he lowers his dignity by entering into a conflict with such an infamous paper, and appearing to care about its abuse. I think the Chancellor was right, and that he is wrong.

[In December 1829, the editors and proprietor of ‘Morning Journal’ were found guilty of libel on ministers and parliament and sentenced to a year in Newgate. The paper closed a few months later.]

There is a report that the King insists upon the Duke of Cumberland [another of George IV’s brothers] being Commander-in-Chief, and it is extraordinary how many people think that he will succeed in turning out the Duke. Lord Harrington died while I was at Brighton, and it is supposed that the Duke of Cumberland will try and get the Round Tower [part of Windsor Castle], but probably the King will not like to establish him so near himself.

The King has nearly lost his eyesight, and is to be couched as soon as his eyes are in a proper state for the operation. He is in a great fright with his father’s fate before him, and indeed nothing is more probable than that he will become blind and mad too; he is already a little of both. It is now a question of appointing a Private Secretary, and [Sir William] Knighton, it is supposed, would be the man; but if he is to abstain from all business, there would seem to be no necessity for the appointment, as he will be as little able to do business with his Private Secretary as with his Minister.’

The King’s bathing habits

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1998
Alastair Campbell,
journalist and political aide

‘TB was heading off to Coventry and I was due to come back with CB. We met up at the shop, where I had a brief glimpse of [Prince] Charles, who was showing them some of his organic produce. She said organic farming had taken up most of their conversation at lunch. The rest had been a meandering around foreign affairs. TB was always pretty discreet about his royal dealings, CB less so. She said when she first Princess Anne, Anne had called her ‘Mrs Blair’, to which CB said ‘Call me Cherie.’ I’d rather not, Mrs Blair,’ said Anne. She said she didn’t bother to protest when Charles called her Mrs Blair today.’

Call me Cherie

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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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