And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

29 September

1805
Horatio Nelson,
naval commander

‘Fine weather. Gave out the necessary orders for the Fleet. Sent Euryalus to watch the Enemy with the Hydra off Cadiz.’

Nelson’s diary, and left hand

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1826
Francis Edward Witts,
priest

‘They say the march of intellect is wonderful these days. Men navigate by steam, tram carts travel by steam; but this is nothing to the present fashion of travelling by paper kites. To-day we witnessed the experiment made at Gloucester. For some days I had noticed two large paper kites hovering over the town. They were hoisted by a school master who amused himself with mechanical pursuits, letting off balloons etc. The wind being westerly, was favourable for an excursion to Cheltenham so he orders out his gig, or rather I think it was a four wheeled chair, attaches it to two paper kites, mounts with two or three companies and away they go, not very rapidly, not at a very regular pace, but progressing.’

Upper Slaughter’s squire

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1916
Arthur Graeme West,
writer

Rainy and depressing. Up to trenches again by T_ Wood. Seven men killed by a shell as soon as we got in the trench; beastly sight! I went up to find the way at G_ at night. I got back to find a Buszard’s cake - jolly evening. Slept on the floor of a dug-out. Stomach troubles.’

Shambles in the dug-outs

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1938
Cesare Pavese,
writer

‘I shall have to stop priding myself on being unable to find pleasure in the things ordinary men enjoy - high days and holidays; the fun of being one in a crowd; family affection and so on. What I am really incapable of is enjoying out-of-the-ordinary pleasures - solitude and a sense of mastery, and if I am not very good at sharing the sentiments of the average man it is because my artless assumption that I was capable of something better has rusted my natural reactions, which used to be perfectly normal. In general we feel rather pleased with ourselves when we do not enjoy common pleasures, believing this means that we are ‘capable of better things’. But incapacity in the one case does not presuppose capacity in the other. A man who is incapable of writing nonsense may be equally incapable of writing something pleasing.

We hate the thing we fear, the thing we know may be true and may have a certain affinity with ourselves, for each man hates himself. The most interesting, the most fertile qualities in every man are those he most hates in himself and in others, for hatred includes every other feeling - love, envy, ignorance, mystery, the urge to know and to possess. It is hate that causes suffering. To overcome hatred is to take a step towards self-knowledge, self-mastery, self-justification, and consequently towards an end of suffering. When we suffer, it is always our own fault.’

I won’t write any more

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1943
James Meade,
economist

‘A morning free from meetings, which I spent at the Embassy clearing up many odd points with Liesching, reading papers etc. I also spoke with Robbins on the subject of the British attitude on the currency problem. He seems to realise clearly that the question whether the Fund deals in national currencies or in Unitas is really of secondary importance. We must not allow there to be a break on such a senseless issue. Had lunch with two men from the State Department, Phelps and Gay, who wished to discuss the problem of state trading. I argued that we should set certain price rules and criteria for state trading which would correspond to the price rules with private enterprise as modified by permitted subsidies and tariffs. After lunch I saw Rasminsky for twenty minutes. He has come from Ottawa to talk with Keynes and others on the currency discussion. He is in exactly the same sense of perplexity as myself. Why must the British fight so on a point which is of so little substance as the monetisation of Unitas? In the afternoon another meeting of the Anglo-American group on commercial policy. First we discussed export taxes and restrictions, on which subject the Americans accepted our suggested rule without any difficulty. Then I introduced the general subject of the formation of the Commercial Union and of its institutions. The Americans are in very much the same mind as ourselves on these issues; but they want it to be made compulsory for members of the Commercial Union not to extend the advantages of membership to non-members. Later I dined with Galbraith and his wife at the Cosmos Club and then went on to their home in Georgetown to talk. He is the ‘relentless’ type of radical, believes that Russia should be permitted to absorb Poland, the Balkans and the whole of Eastern Europe in order to spread the benefits of Communism, that the outlook for American politics is very black because even if the Roosevelt administration wins the next election the liberal New Dealers are now all a crowd of tired, cautious and conservative liberals, etc. I think he may be a little embittered at the punishing experience he had at OPA where there was a witch-hunt against liberal College professors of which he was the main victim. He is off to New York to join the editorial board of Fortune.’

UK-US talks on commercial union

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1961
Ned Rorem,
composer

‘If I weren’t a musician I’d have more time for music. Far more informed than I is the Music Lover, the amateur; nor is his information necessarily more superficial. At a time when it counted - before the age of twenty - I did learn the piano catalogue of Chopin, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Debussy, Ravel, and a bit less of Liszt and Schumann. But most of these weren’t mastered. To hear them no longer tempts me. Seldom at a concert don’t I feel I should be home writing my own music.’

Self-exposing massacre

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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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