And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

22 September

John Knox,

‘Two men of the 28th regiment deserted this morning, and took their course towards Baye Verde, where meeting with some of the enemy (savages as we are informed) one of them made his escape, and returned to the fort; in consideration whereof, and his good character, he was pardoned. A violent rain came on this afternoon, which obliged us to quit our work.’

Killed and scalped


Henry Crabb Robinson,

‘I was in the grand gallery at the Louvre when I heard some one say, “Mrs. Siddons is below.” I instantly left the Raphaels and Titians, and went in search of her, and my Journal says: “I am almost ashamed to confess that the sight of her gave me a delight beyond almost any I have received in Paris.” I had never seen her so near. She was walking with Horace Twiss’s mother. I kept as near her as I could with decorum, and without appearing to be watching her; yet there was something about her that disturbed me. So glorious a head ought not to have been covered with a small chip hat. She knit her brows, too, on looking at the pictures, as if to assist a failing sight. But I recognized her fascinating smile with delight, though there was a line or two about her mouth which I thought coarse.’

Her genius triumphed


Francis Lieber,
philosopher and teacher

‘Went early in the morning on horseback to Ariccia, Genzano, and Velletri. This is the capital of the ancient Volscians, and is beautifully situated on a hill. By way of Giullianello to Cora - cyclopean walls, Temple of Castor and Pollux. Bought Niebuhr a knife which had only been used at sacrifices in time of peace.’

Lieber’s Life and Letters


William Charles Macready,

‘Received a most kind letter from Dickens with the proof sheet of the dedication of Nickleby to me. Surely this is something to gratify me. . . Answered Dickens‘s letter, thanking him, as well as I could, for the high compliment conferred on me.’

A surprising man


Edward Hodges Cree,

‘Returned to Honiton, and next day went on to Bridport. Stay at Mr John Hounsell’s, the dear old master [Cree’s tutor during his apprenticeship]. The same changes in the children here: Eliza, the eldest, grown into a pretty, clever girl of nineteen, well read and accomplished; Henry, the eldest boy, commenced medical studies at London University, and so nothing remains stationary. I had hosts of old friends to see at Bridport, which was a great pleasure, but some dear ones had gone to their last rest.’

Pirate hunting expedition


Henry Cockburn,

‘The Aberdeen criminal business exhausted four days, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and yesterday. There were not more cases than usual; but they happened to be of a worse description. In particular, there were four capital cases, viz. two murders, one murder combined with raptus, and one raptus alone. One of the murders ended in an acquittal, and very properly, because though the guilt was certain and savage, the evidence was not satisfactory. In another murder, a plea of culpable homicide produced twenty years’ transportation. The simple raptus ended in a conviction, and in transportation for life. The murder and raptus combined caused a sentence of death. This last was a horrid case.

The prisoner was James Robb, a country labourer of about twenty-five, a known reprobate, and stout. His victim was Mary Smith, a quiet woman of sixty-two, never married, or a mother, who lived by herself in a lonely house by the wayside. There was a fair held at a village in Aberdeenshire called Badenscoth, which sometimes, though in no eminent degree, produced some of the disorderly scenes natural to fairs.

Mary Smith, though not the least alarmed, happened to observe casually that “she was not afraid of anybody, except that lad Jamie Robb.” That very night Robb left the fair (9th April 1849) about ten, avowing that he was determined to gratify his passion on somebody before he slept. He had then no thought of this old woman; but, unfortunately, her house lay in his way. He asked admittance, upon pretence of lighting his pipe. She refused. On this he got upon the roof and went down the chimney, which consisted of a square wooden box about 5 feet long by 2 and a half wide, placed about 8 feet above the fire. Its soot was streaked by his corduroy dress, which helped to identify him. Having got in, the beast fell upon its prey. She was thought in good health, but after death was discovered to have an incipient disease in the heart, which agitation made dangerous, but which might have lain long dormant. The violence of the brute, and the alarm, proved fatal. She was found dead in the morning, and the bed broken, and in the utmost confusion. A remarkable composite metal button, broken from its eye, was found twisted in what the witness called “a lurk,” or fold, of the sheet. Buttons of exactly the same kind, and with the same words and figures engraved on them, were found on his jacket, all complete except that one was awanting. But its eye remained; and this eye, with its bright recent fracture, exactly fitted the part of the button that had been found. These circumstances would have been sufficient to have established his having been in the house. But his declaration admitted the fact. Consent was excluded by its being obvious that it was the energy of her resistance that had killed her.

It is difficult to drive the horrors of that scene out of one’s imagination. The solitary old woman in the solitary house, the descent through the chimney, the beastly attack, the death struggle, all that was ‘going on within this lonely room, amidst silent fields, and under a still, dark sky. It is a fragment of hell, which it is both difficult to endure and to quit.

Yet a jury, though clear of both crimes, recommended the brute to mercy! because he did not intend to commit the murder! Neither does the highwayman, who only means to wound, in order to get the purse, but kills.

Within a few hours after he was convicted he confessed, and explained that the poor woman had died in his very grip. (He was executed, solemnly denying his guilt, quoad raptus!) [. . .]

The Queen is living at Balmoral, and therefore I expected to be obstructed by some of the usual bustle of royalty. But it is reputable for the royalty of this nation that, except by a paltry flag set up before his door by the inn-keeper of Ballater, there was not a vestige of Majesty in any part of the strath. We did not encounter a single carriage, nor a single rider, nor one soldier, nor a police officer, nor anything to mark a distinguished presence. The inns were rather less crowded than usual, the post-horses as fresh, the strath as natural. The sheep, the stots, and even the barelegged children, all went off exactly as before. Balmoral itself was silent; flagless; apparently un-guarded; calm; beautiful. I think this very respectable in her Majesty and family. It seems to show sense and taste. And the fact that such enjoyment of such virtuous pleasures is not merely possible, but easy and habitual, demonstrates how deep the monarchical principle is in the mind of the country, and how much better it is promoted by rational conduct, than by the common follies of royalty.’

Of murder and raptus


Maria Mitchell,

‘On the evening of the 18th while ‘sweeping’ there came into the field the two nebulae in Ursa Major which I have known for many a year, but which to my surprise now appeared to be three. The upper one (as seen in an inverted telescope) appeared double headed like one near the Dolphin, but much more decided than that. The space between the two heads being plainly discernible and subtending a very decided angle. The bright part of the object was clearly the old nebulae but what was the appendage? Had the nebula suddenly changed, was it a comet, or was it only a very fine night?

Father decided at once for the comet, I hesitated with my usual cowardice and forbade his giving it a notice in the paper.

I watched it from 8.30 to 11.30 almost without cessation and was quite sure at 11.30 that its position with regard to the neighboring stars had changed. I counted its distance from the known nebula several times but the whole affair was difficult, for there were flying clouds and sometimes both nebula and comet were too indistinct to be definitely seen.

The 19th was cloudy and the 20th the same with the variety of wearisome breaks, through which I could see the nebula but not the comet.

On the 21st came a circular and behold Mr. van Arsdale had seen it on the 13th but had not been sure of it until the 15th on account of the clouds. I was too well pleased with having really made the discovery to care because I was not first.

Let the Dutchman have the reward of his sturdier frame and steadier nerves.

Especially could I be a Christian because the 13th was cloudy and more especially because I dreaded the responsibility of making the computations nolens nolens [willy-nilly] which I must have done to be able to call it mine. . .

I made observations for three hours last night, and am almost ill to-day from fatigue; still I have worked all day, trying to reduce the places, and mean to work hard again to-night.’

Two nebulae in Leo


Hubert Parry,

‘I travelled up to London in pleasant company and had a smoke by the way, and got to Windsor without accident at about 5.30. I proceeded to order my piano and some music paper, etc., and now here I am sitting in my old room again; at the beginning of another half, having seen old friends, and old faces.’

Finished my first song


Benedetto Croce,

‘Raimondo has left again. Suffocating heat continues. Tight feeling about the heart for Naples in the hands of the Germans. From here we hear explosions and see fires, and get rumours of people killed, devastation and looting. General Donovan and a journalist called Whitaker, together with an American officer called Tomkins, whom I got to know in the last few days and who has been in Italy previously for a long time, came to see me. The General told me that large supplies have been prepared for Naples, to be landed ten or fifteen days after the occupation. He said it might be a good thing if I let this be known in Naples. I said I would spread the news among people I shall see, but that I have no means of communicating with Naples. Similarly, with another of his suggestions that the Neapolitans should try to prevent the Germans from destroying the port. Whitaker offered me presses, paper and ink with which to print a paper here! General Donovan asked me how the spirit of the Italians was, and I said that what all the best Italians wanted, and what would most encourage them, would be permission to form a combatant legion under the Italian flag to co-operate with the Anglo-American armies in liberating Italian soil from the Germans; and then, when he asked me whether there was anybody who could command such a legion, I gave him General Pavone’s name, a man of an old southern family, a patriot and a liberal, and presently a member of the Party of Action.’

I always see the ruin of Italy


Ferdinand Marcos,

‘Sec. Juan Ponce Enrile was ambushed near Wack-Wack at about 8:00 pm tonight. It was a good thing he was riding in his security car as a protective measure. His first car which he usually uses was the one riddled by bullets from a car parked in ambush.

He is now at his DND office. I have advised him to stay there.

And I have doubled the security of Imelda in the Nayon Pilipino where she is giving dinner to the UPI and AP as well as other wire services.

This makes the martial law proclamation a necessity.

Imelda arrived at 11:35 PM in my Electra bullet proof car to be told that Johnny had been ambushed, it is all over the radio.

Congress is not adjourning tonight as the conference committee on the Tariff and Customs Code could not agree on a common version. They adjourn tomorrow.

I conferred with Speaker Villareal, Roces, Yñiguez and Barbero who are going to Moscow and they are ready to leave on Sunday. So they are decided to finish the session same.

Senate President Gil Puyat insists that the next special session be early January.

And they will not be able to pass the urgent bills like the rehabilitation bill.’

Purpose into my life


Dannie Abse,
doctor and writer

‘The past survives however much one tries to drive it down and away from one’s consciousness. It rears up provoked by something overheard or a scene, a place, an object, a tune, a scent even. It is inescapable. But I think how I must count my blessings, though it would have been better if Joan not I had been the one who had crawled out of that capsized car. She would have been much more self-sufficient. Count your blessings, son, my mother used to say. A cliché. At times of stress, clichés, family sayings, proverbs, are drawn to the mind like a magnet. I do count my blessings: at night, though I don’t sleep well, I am unable to lie on my right side now that the stress-fractures of the right thoracic cage have healed; the scar on my chin and neck are hardly visible; my left thumb, though oddly angled, is less troublesome and it is no bad thing that I’ve lost a stone in weight. Presumably the latter is due as much to my increased metabolic rate as it is to the lack of Joan’s tempting and nutritious cooking. At least I hope I haven’t developed an over-active thyroid. I take my pulse and note it is raised though not alarmingly so. Do I write all this down as an aide-mémoire for my future self?’

Autobiographical items


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And so made significant . . .
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Notes and Cautions
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.