And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

23 September

1775
Hester Thrale,
writer and philanthropist

‘This Morning my Curiosity was abundantly gratified by visiting two Convents of Religious Woman. The first were Gravelines or poor Claires into whose House however I was not permitted to enter further than the Chapel through the Grate of which I conversed quite at my Ease with them - the more as they were all my Countrywomen, & some still retained a strong Provincial Northern Dialect. They were truly wretched indeed, wore only Petticoat, and that of the coarsest Stuff, they were bare legged and bare footed, & had no Linnen about them except a sort of Band, which was very dirty though I had Reason to think I was expected. The Sister at the Speak House [. . .] smelt very offensive when I saluted her, which I find is the Custom at all Convents. [. . .] Their Fingers all seem knotted at the Joynts, their Nails broken & miserably disfugured, they are extremely lean too.’

Hester Thrale in France

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1830
James Fenimore Cooper,
writer

‘The news from Belgium this morning still more serious. This contest will draw on the war which, in some shape or other, must grow out of the late revolution. The Dutchmen seem very obstinate, and the Belgians very spirited. The hatred of all elevations of the lower classes, among the European aristocracy, is so intense, that fight they must, to their own certain destruction.

At a little before 6, Thorne stopped for me, and we took up Mr McLane, on our way to the Palais Royal. We had little ceremony in the reception. Our names were taken, and checked off, on the list of the company, when we were shown to an ante-chamber. The King soon opened the folding-doors himself, and we entered. Not half the guests had yet come. All the royal family, with a few attendants, were there. General La Fayette and family soon arrived. Dinner was soon announced. The King led Madame La Fayette, and La Fayette the Queen. Mademoiselle d’Orleans was seated on the right of the King, Madame La Fayette on his left; La Fayette on the right of the Queen, and M Augustin Périer on her left. Here was an oversight in French courtesy. This seat should have been assigned to McLane. I am inclined to think the arrangement was not pre- meditated, for the French rarely fail in politeness.

The dinner-service was plate, the table large, and the servants very numerous. Beyond this, with the décorations of the guests, and the liveries, one might have fancied himself at a Washington dinner. There was a little order in the entrances and exits of the courses, but no proclaiming of the service of the King, as before. Both the King and Queen helped more than is common at good French tables. I saw no embarrassment, or pretension of any sort, during dinner. When the Queen rose, the ladies turned, and the finger-bowls were handed them by servants, the gentlemen using them at the side-tables. We then withdrew into the wing of the Palace, opposite the Théâtre Francais. Here coffee was served. Mrs and Miss T_ soon entered, and were presented by La Fayette. The Queen then went into an inner drawing-room, which was very large and magnificent, with a billiard-room communicating. Here the ladies seated themselves round a large table, a lady of the family working, rather premeditatedly, at another. I presume this lady, who had the air of a governess, was so placed to give the reception an informal character.

In a few minutes, Mrs R_ entered, followed by Mrs M_ and a dozen more of our ladies. They were met by the Queen, who advanced some little distance, and Mrs R_ presented them all, in succession. Two or three more parties arrived, and were presented in the same manner, the whole seating themselves, by invitation. In about twenty minutes, the Queen arose and made the tour of the circle; afterwards the ladies retired, followed by most of the gentlemen. Mr Rives, Mr Middleton, and eight or ten gentlemen, came in with the ladies. The whole passed off very well, and without the least gaucherie, and our women, though with two or three exceptions no longer in the bud, looked uncommonly well. I scarcely remember to have seen so many women in a set, that looked so uniformly genteel and pretty. I suspect but one of being rouged. Two or three were really beautiful. This little exhibition convinces me of what I have often thought, that we only want Parisian mantua-makers and milliners, to carry off the palm in female grace and beauty; for it will be remembered that the effect was produced in a strong theatrical light, without the aid of rouge.

I was surprised to see the uniform grace of their courtesies, which were simple, easy, and dignified.

I wish I could say as much for all the men; though the gentlemen behaved, as such, with modesty, aplomb, and quiet.

I thought the French looked a little surprised.

All the children were present, the little Duc de Montpensier racing round the rooms, though not in a noisy manner, with great gouût. The others were more tranquil, though thoroughly at their ease. It struck me there was a little too much affectation of simplicity for a reception that was necessarily short and formal; and on the part of our women, a little too much dress. After all, it is difficult to hit the true medium in a case of this sort. The court sacrificed a little too much to republicanism, and we, a little too much to royalty. If there was to be a mistake, both erred on the right side.’

The news from Belgium

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1862
John Milton Hay,
politician

‘The President wrote the Proclamation on Sunday morning carefully. He called the Cabinet together on Monday made a little talk to them and read the momentous document. Mr. Blair and Mr. Bates made objections, otherwise the Cabinet was unanimous. The next day Mr. Blair who had promised to file his objections, sent a note stating that as his objections were only to the time of the act he would not file them, lest they should be subject to misconstruction.

I told the President of the Serenade that was coming and asked if he would make any remarks. He said, no, but he did say half a dozen words, & said them with great grace and dignity. I spoke to him about the editorials in the leading papers. He said he had studied the matter so long that he knew more about it than they did.

At Governor Chase’s there was some talking after the Serenade. Chase and Clay made speeches and the crowd was in a glorious humor. After the crowd went away, to force Mr. Bates to say something, a few old fogies staid at the Governor’s and drank wine. Chase spoke earnestly of the Proclamation. He said “this was a most wonderful history of an insanity of a class that the world had ever seen. If the Slaveholders had staid in the Union they might have kept the life in their institution for many years to come. That what no party and no public feeling in the North could ever have hoped to touch they had madly placed in the very path of destruction.” They all seemed to feel a sort of new and exhilarated life; they breathed freer; the Prest. Procn had freed them as well as the slaves. They gleefully and merrily called each other and themselves abolitionists, and seemed to enjoy the novel accusation of appropriating that horrible name.’

The witty, dapper Mr. Hay

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1902
Apolinario Mabini,
lawyer and politician

‘Yesterday, at past eleven in the morning, there was a very strong earthquake, the strongest and longest that I have felt in my life. This was followed by others of lesser intensity, occurring at intervals of 15 to 20 until this morning.

They say the tremor destroyed the following: The two stone houses of the Filipino proprietor, Don Eulogio de la Cruz, which were completely destroyed; the house occupied by Messrs. Gerona and Dimayuga; another one occupied by Messrs. Trías and Simón Tecson; the new civil hospital; two stone houses occupied by the club; and the tribunal-house presently occupied by the Court.

Also destroyed were a portion of the house occupied by the owner, Mr. Dungca; the walls of the stone house which served as a government-house; the house of the Fiscal (roofing and the garden fence); the big college and the public school which had cracks; one side of the house that was occupied by Don Pablo Ocampo and Mauricio; the roofing and walls of the convent; and the tower which was split from top to bottom.

It is said that of the total houses in the whole town, only three or four remain habitable.

Big holes were formed in front of the Protestant church and in various areas. A long crack on the ground, starting from the sea cuts through the different parts of the town. Water gushed forth from some of these holes, inundating a street. Fortunately, there were no personal casualties.’

Philippine’s first prime minister

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1949
Guy Liddell,
intelligence officer

‘The preliminaries to this meeting are quite fantastic. SHAG is to look for a chalk Z which will be placed on a telegraph post near his home. This will mean that if he can manage it he is to attend a meeting at that spot at a given hour on the same day. To confirm he will be there, he has to turn the Z into an H. The man meeting him will be smoking a cigarette and have a rubber band on his little finger. SHAG will bring out his snuffbox and take a pinch of snuff - no conversation will pass. The second meeting will take place at a different rendezvous with another person, when the same pantomime will be gone through. The visitor will ask for a light, then offer SHAG a cigarette, when the latter will reply that he takes snuff. This will be the all clear for further conversation.’

He shines in the dark

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1994
Alastair Campbell,
journalist and political aide

‘Cherie’s 40th birthday party at Frederick’s. Odd kind of do. Didn’t feel right being photographed going in, by Alan Davidson [celebrity photographer] of all people, and I couldn’t quite work out the guest mix. Family, a bit of politics, law, and friends that didn’t always seem like Tony’s kind of people. Maybe he is a lot more eclectic than we are. Cherie had certainly been given a makeover. She looked great, but it was an odd do.’

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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