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The diarists: This week in history


4 May 1961

Evelyn Waugh: "It is a common feature of all but the most recent fiction that a character is falsely suspected of a misdemeanour and is able to recognize his true friends from the false by their irrational belief in his innocence. How many of my friends should I believe innocent of what crimes? If I heard that Andrew Devonshire was arrested for sodomy, Ann Fleming for poisoning her husband, Bob Laycock for burglary, should I not think: how surprising and amusing?"

9 May 1942

James Lees-Milne architectural historian and novelist: "Over a cup of tea… I opened the New Statesman and began an article by Raymond Mortimer on the Royal Academy exhibition. I read that there was one gallery devoted to pictures by Wilson Steer and Sickert, that there was a Vanessa Bell of the Queen and princesses, someone else of the Prime Minister and a Moynihan of Eddy Sackville-West. I was so excited I did not even finish the article or my tea, and rush[ed] to the Academy before it shut, bought a catalogue and went the rounds. Nowhere could I find any of the sixty or so pictures… mentioned by Raymond. The beast had, by way of a skit, written a mock review of all those artists' works which he would liked to see exhibited. I was furious with him."

10 May 1864

Arthur Munby poet and barrister: "Near Covent Garden this afternoon I met Charles Dickens, walking along alone and unnoticed. A man of middle height, of somewhat slight frame, of light step and jaunty air; clad in a spruce frockcoat, buttoned to show his good and still youthful figure; and with a brand new hat airily cocked on one side, and stick poised in his hand. A man of sanguine complexion, deeply lined & scantly bearded face, and countenance alert and observant, scornful somewhat and sour, with a look of fretfulness, vanity… Thus, in superficial casual view, I judged of him. Anyhow, how unlike the tall massive frame, the slow gentle ways, the grave and self-absorbed look, of Thackeray!"