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A Look Back at the Months to Come

Compiled by John Phipps

February 21

A very wet morning. Snowdrops quite out, but cold and winterly; yet, for all this, a thrush that lives in our orchard has shouted and sung its merriest all day long.

Dorothy Wordsworth


February 25

Lay long in bed, talking with pleasure with my poor wife how she used to make coal fires and wash my foul clothes with her own hand for me, poor wretch, in our little room at my Lord Sandwiches; for which I ought ever to love and admire her, and do, and persuade myself she would do the same thing again if God should reduce us to it ... So at the office late very busy, and much business with great joy despatched; and so home to supper and to bed.

Samuel Pepys


February 29

I saw some blessed purple walls against sunshine among the farms, and seemed to find my life again on the green banks.

John Ruskin


March 1

It was a sweet morning, and the bushes were full of nightingales.

John Evelyn


March 7

My 35th birthday. Actually I have lied so much about my age that I forget how old I really am. I think I look 28, and know I feel 19.

‘Chips’ Channon


March 11

The frogs have begun to croak and spawn in the ponds and dykes.

John Clare


March 12

Clive [Bell] gave me dinner at the Café Royal, which did not much interest me as a show, rather to his disappointment. However towards the end of dinner a woman of doubtful character dining alone with a man threw her glass on the floor, made a rattle of knives and plates, upset the mustard pot and marched out like an indignant Turkey cock. Was this moment, with the eyes of the diners upon her, what repaid her? Was it for this that she protested? Anyhow, she left her man very crestfallen, trying to appear nonchalant; and I daresay that was what she wanted. I couldn't help thinking of the dreary scene in the flat next morning – the tears, the recriminations, the reconciliation – and next Sunday they'll dine, I suppose, at another restaurant.

Virginia Woolf


March 20

Miserable news from Paris. Another revolution, barricades, the troops of the line fraternizing with the insurgent National Guards, two Generals shot, two more in the hands and tender mercies of the beastly cowardly Paris mob. Those Parisians are the scum of the earth, and Paris is the crater of the volcano, France, and a bottomless pit of revolution and anarchy.

Rev. Francis Kilvert


March 26

[In a letter to John Hobhouse]

I have sent Fletcher to Cambridge for various purposes, & he bears this dispatch for you.––I am still living with my Dalilah, who has only two faults, unpardonable in a woman,––she can read and write.––Greet in my name the Bilious Birdmore, if you journey this way, I shall be glad to furnish you with Bread and Salt.––The university still chew the Cud of my degree, please God they shall swallow it, though Inflammation be the Consequence.––

I am leading a quiet through debauched life.

Lord Byron


March 30

It is snowing now, large loose watery flakes; they fall straight; there is no wind. Muddy water is in the evening sky, and we began summer time last Sunday, so the evening sky is prolonged.

Virginia Woolf


April 5

I conscientiously read all the newspapers. Everything is so frightening – the war and the famine; there’s menace in the air.

Sophia Tolstoy


April 8

The ashtree growing in the corner of the garden was felled. It was lopped first: I heard the sound and looking out and seeing it maimed there came at that moment a great pang and I wished to die and not to see the inscapes of the world destroyed any more.

Gerard Manley Hopkins


April 11

This night were glorious fireworks at the Palace of Cardinal Medici before the gate, and lights of several colours all about the windows through the city, which they contrive by setting the candles in little paper lanterns dyed with various colours, placing hundreds of them from story to story; which renders a gallant show.

John Evelyn


April 17

Magnetic weather, sunlight soft and bright, colours of fells and fields far off seeming as if dipped in watery blue.

Gerard Manley Hopkins


April 20

[In a letter to her husband, John Paston I]

I pray you that ye will do your cost on me against Whitsuntide, that I may have something for me neck. When the Queen was here I borrowed my cousin Elisabeth Clere's device, for I durst not for shame go with my beads among so many fresh gentlewomen as here were at that time.

Margaret Paston


April 21

A bitter windy rainy day. There is no blue, no red, no green in this detestable spring. Furs are in the shops. Life is either too empty or too full.

Virginia Woolf


April 23

Charles II's Coronation

I sat from past 4 till 11 before the King came in ... The crowne being put upon his head, a great shout begun. And he came forth to the throne and there passed more ceremonies ... But so great a noise, that I could make but little of the Musique; and endeed [sic], it was lost to everybody. But I had so great a list to pisse, that I went out a little while before the King had done all his ceremonies and went round the abby [sic] to Westminster hall, all the way within the rayles, and 10000 people, with the ground covered with blue cloth – and Scaffolds all the way. Into the hall I got – where it was very fine with hangings and scaffolds, one upon another, full of brave ladies. And my wife in one little one on the right hand.

Samuel Pepys


April 26

[In a letter to Percy Bysshe Shelley]

I am very sorry to hear what you say of Keats––is it actually true? I did not think criticism had been so killing. Though I differ from you essentially in your estimate of his performances, I so much abhor all unnecessary pain that I would rather he had been seated on the highest peak of Parnassus than have perished in such a manner. Poor fellow!

Lord Byron


April 30

The editor of the New Statesman pooh-poohed the idea of any modern diary being important as literature. ‘Pepys is the only existing masterpiece; there are no other diaries. And Pepys is great because he was that rarest thing, a man who could write and was at the same time a simple-minded man.’ This rather dashed me, though he doesn't know that I am a diarist, and is probably unaware that I am somewhat simple-minded. I’d merely suggested that a modern diary might be more interesting to posterity than most modern novels.

Siegfried Sassoon


May 1

We have a cherry tree from head to foot every branch sleeved with white glossy blossom.

Gerard Manley Hopkins


I have wasted the brilliant first of May which makes my skylight blue and gold; have only a rubbish heap in my head; can’t read, and can’t write, and can’t think.

Virginia Woolf


May 4

Had a great fray with my wife again about Brown’s coming to teach her to paint and sitting with me at table, which I will not yield to. I do thoroughly believe she means no hurt in it, but very angry we were; and I resolved all into my having my will done without disputing, be the reason what it will – and so I will have it.

Samuel Pepys


May 5

Cold. Resolved to be a religious.

Gerard Manley Hopkins


May 6

George V's Silver Jubilee

I couldn't sleep for excitement and got up at 7.15. I dressed, woke Honor [his wife] and walked through Green Park to St. James’s Palace to the Ponsonby’s house where a group of fr4iends had collected to watch the procession. The usual people fainting in the heat (Royal weather) ... thunderous applause of the royal carriages ... Finally the Prince of Wales smiling his dentist smile and waving to his friends, but he still has his old spell for the crowd. The Norway aunt who was with him looked comic, and then more troops, and suddenly the coach with Their Majesties. All eyes were on the Queen in her white and silvery splendour. Never has she looked so serene, so regally majestic, even so attractive. She completely eclipsed the King. Suddenly she has become the best-dressed woman in the world.

‘Chips’ Channon


May 7

I see how chestnuts in bloom look like big seeded strawberries.

Gilbert White


May 8

When you long with all your heart for someone to love you, a madness grows there that shakes all sense from the trees and the water and the earth. And nothing lives for you, except the long deep bitter want. And this is what everyone feels from birth to death.

Denton Welch


May 18

This day I begin to drink Buttermilke and whey – and I hope to find great good by it.

Samuel Pepys


May 20

“Grandpa” has died; with all his good and bad traits, he was a strong man, genuine. His last message: “Many happy returns upon St. George’s day.”

George Seferis


May 24

Worked on my photographs. very tired. Visited the grave. Every time I go I weep, as if I were responsible for my husband’s death. But how passionately I loved my Lyvochka, to the very last moment of his life! What happened is a complete mystery, we will never understand it.

Sophia Tolstoy


June 1

Oh dear, oh dear, I don’t like dining with Clive – not altogether.

Virginia Woolf


June 4

I brought some lemon thyme, and several other plants, and planted them by moonlight.

Dorothy Wordsworth


June 6

So home and with my father and wife to Sir. W. Penn’s to dinner, which they invited us out of their respect to my father, as a stranger; though I know them as false as the devil himself, and that it is only that they think it fit to oblige me; wherein I am a happy man, that all of my fellow-officers are desirous of friendship. Here as merry as in so false a place and where I must dissemble my hatred, I could be. And after dinner, my father and wife to a play and I to my office; and there busy all the afternoon till late at night; and then my wife and I sang a song or two in the garden, and so home to supper and to bed.

Samuel Pepys


June 15

We dined with Clive, and I felt very fond of him. He has great sympathy. Yes, I’m very fond of my old Clive.

Virginia Woolf


Extracts from: The Diary of Samuel Peyps: A Selection ed. Robert Latham (Penguin, 2003); The Diary of John Evelyn ed. William Bray, (Everyman, 1952); The English Year ed. Geoffrey Grigson (Oxford University Press, 1967); The Paston Letters ed. Norman Davies (Oxford University Press, 1963); The Diaries of Sophia Tolstoy trans. Cathy Porter (Alma Books, 2010); Poems and Prose of Gerard Manley Hopkins ed. W. H. Gardner (Penguin Classics, 1985); George Seferis, A Poet’s Journal trans Athan Anagnotstopoulos (Harvard University Press, 1974); Byron’s Letters and Journals: a New Selection ed. Richard Lansdown (Oxford University Press, 2015) Virginia Woolf, Selected Diaries ed. Anne Olivier Bell (Vintage, 2008); The Asassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diaries ed. Irene and Alan Taylor (Canongate, 200).

JOHN PHIPPS read English at Magdalen and New College. Now dissolute and quite ruined, in his glory days he edited this paper.

Art by Imogen Whiteley


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