And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

8 September

1609
Henry Hudson,
sailor and explorer

‘The eighth, was very faire weather, wee rode still very quietly. The people came aboord us, and brought tabacco and Indian wheat to exchange for knives and beades, and offered us no violence. So we fitting up our Boate did marke them, to see if they would make any shew of the Death of our man; which they did not.’

A very good harbour

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1786
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
playwright and diplomat

‘Reached the Brenner, virtually forced to stop at what is an ideal place for a rest. My first act is to tell you all the good things of the day just past. It was the kind of day you can savour in the memory for years. Left Mittelwald at 6, clear sky, a keen wind blowing, and the kind of cold only allowed in February. The near slopes dark and covered in spruce, the grey limestone cliffs, the highest white peaks against the beautiful blue of the sky made exquisite, constantly changing pictures.

Near Scharnitz you get into the Tyrol and the border is closed with a rampart that seals off the valley and joins up with the mountains. It looks very fine. One one side the cliff is fortified, on the other it just goes steeply up.

At Seefield by half-past 8. From there the route gets steadily more interesting. Up to this point it went over the hills that you climb out of Benedict Bayern, now you get nearer to the valley of the Inn and look down into Intzingen. The sun was high and hot. The clothes I brought with me - a jerkin with sleeves and an overcoat - that were meant for all seasons, had to be changed, and they often are 10 times in a day.

Near Cirl the route drops into the Inn valley. The situation is indescribably lovely and with the heat-haze high up it was magnificent. I only managed to dash down a sketch, the driver hadn’t been to Mass yet and was in a hurry to get to Innsbruck, it was the Nativity of the Virgin.

Now it’s down the Inn valley all the way, past the immense steep limestone face of the Martin Wall. At the point where Emperor Max is said to have got himself cragfast, I reckon I could probably get up and down without an angel’s help, though it would still be a criminally risky undertaking.

Innsbruck lies in a splendid position, in a broad rich valley between high rock walls and mountains. I felt like stopping there for today, but something inside wouldn’t let me rest.

The innkeeper’s son was Soller to a T. So I’m gradually coming across the characters I’ve invented.

It’s the Virgin’s Nativity. The people are all dressed up, looking healthy and prosperous, and making a pilgrimage to Wilten a quarter of an hour outside the town. I left Innsbruck at 2 and at half-past seven was here.’

Goethe in shirtsleeves

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1856
Wilhelm Bleek,
scientist

‘Monday 8th September. After breakfast, I started on my way to D’Urban. My servants had caught up with me on Saturday night and had left very early. I had to cross the u Mhlango. There was no mistake about the aptness of its name - ‘Reed River’. It was very difficult to get through the reeds and the marsh. I was soon in a dense, high forest with impenetrable undergrowth and for hours followed the hilly path. In these forests one still heard not so very long ago of natives being torn to pieces by hyenas. It is impossible to penetrate the thicket which is supposed to be inhabited by elephants which the most courageous hunters cannot capture. There is also a great deal of game and wild animals of different species. This is where the four lions must have come from which were seen recently in Cato Manor. I saw nothing on the road except an ordinary troop of monkeys and when I came nearer they climbed quickly into the tree-tops. I could easily have shot down one or two with my revolver, but I have a great aversion to wounding an animal which is so much like a human and whose death agony is supposed to be like that of a being gifted with reason. I would have loved to catch a small one to find out how far one can civilise it, a sort of missionary activity more prompted by my desire for knowledge than any humanitarian motives.

A number of wagons were on the way to and from the Bay. On the front seat of one of the wagons sat a native in an elegant white suit and a hat, swinging his whip. Inside sat someone clad in black with a white tie and a blank, melancholy look, unmistakably an American missionary. Next to him sat his wife, very much the same in attire and appearance. It was undoubtedly Mr Alden Grant [Aldin Grout] and his family on their way from his mission station on the Umvoti down to D’Urban, just to take a Sunday service in the Presbyterian congregation. The American missionaries take turns in doing this. Behind the wagon rode one of the missionary’s small sons and a Hottentot youngster.

The dense forest stretched as far as the Umgeni, which I crossed below the refinery of Springfield’s sugar plantation. The water just reached up to the horse’s girth. I then went along below the Berea, past sand-dunes which stretch from here down to the sea. I arrived in D’Urban about 2 o’clock. Along the way I saw none of my men, nor did I see them at the place where we were to meet. A parcel from Liverpool had arrived for me by the ‘Royal William’. It contained a few newspapers from Elberfeld, several English and American ones, two parts of ‘Petermann’s Mittheilungen’ and ‘Die Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft’ and also several books. Some came from my family and for some I was indebted to my friend. Daniel Wichelhaus.’

Father of African philology

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1864
William Daunt,
politician

‘The Times not having printed my recent letter on the Viceroyalty and the State Church, Mr Carvell Williams sent a copy of it to the Morning Star, in last Thursday’s issue of which it occupies a prominent place.’

The Irish Difficulty

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1925
Richard E. Byrd,
explorer

‘Terrible storm tonight. Wind 80 miles per hour. Two small boats from Danish gunboat Island Falk could not make their ship. Came alongside our ship. Both boats sank and came within an ace of losing several of the nine or ten Danes - a very dramatic moment. I have only once before experienced such wind - a typhoon in the China Sea. Much excitement on board last night.’

Flying over the Poles

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1930
Indira Gandhi,
prime minister

‘Boycott week Programme for Vanar Sena.
The whole week Prbahat Pheris - 6-8 A.M.
Procession starting at Khadi Bhandar at 5:30 P.M.
Meeting at Purshottam Das Park.’

If I die a violent death

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1944
Charles McMoran Wilson,
doctor

‘It is just ten days since the P.M. landed at Northholt with a temperature of 103; for some days after that he was chesty, and the X-rays revealed a shadow at the base of the lung, a third dose, though a very mild one, of pneumonia. There had been some doubt whether he would be fit to set off on another trip so soon. I decided at the last moment to ask Lionel Whitby and a nurse to come with us. Winston has got it into his head that a pathologist is an essential part of the team to deal with an attack of pneumonia, and I thought it would comfort him to have one on board.

It was a happy thought. This morning when the P.M.’s temperature went up again he became thoroughly rattled and bad-tempered, until Whitby restored morale by finding that he had a normal blood count. The trouble is that Winston always has pneumonia at the back of his mind. Now the temperature has subsided and he is quite himself again.

A third dose of pneumonia

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1947
Nettie Palmer,
writer

‘Did notes. V. says too warm, too much informed after the event, on Len Mann at Kalorama 1933. Found phrases of his in old diary. Moral: keep good diaries with people’s phrases in them.’

N. tinkering with diaries

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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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