The Diarists: This week in history


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The Independent Culture

18th May, 1939

Harold Nicholson, author, diplomat: "What worries me is my lack of elegance. I go to the best hosiers, the best tailors, the best haircutter. I have the most perfect valet in London. I am always washing and scrubbing : my hairwash comes from Floris. Yet, when I mix with the elegant, I feel scrubby. My shirt pops, my tie becomes crooked, my waistcoat bulges, my hair gets deranged, and I look like Lord Aberconway drunk. I suppose it is all a question of shape. I f I were concave all these things would fall into, and remain in, place. As it is they slip off.

These reflections are prompted by the fact that I went to a First Night. Mr Gordon Selfridge was in front of me – how patrician he appeared! Mr Noel Coward was beside me – how young and distinguished he looked! Mr Ernest Thesiger, Mr Charles Graves – all of them looked as if they belonged. I looked like a hippo in Piccadilly. Incongruous and ill at ease."

24th May, 1839

Queen Victoria: "This day I go out of my teens and become 20! It sounds so strange to me! I have much to be thankful for; and feel I owe more to two people that I can ever repay! My dear Lehzen [her governess] and my dear excellent Lord Melbourne [the Prime Minister]! I pray heaven preserve them in health and strength for many, many years to come, and that Lord Melbourne may remain at the Head of Affairs; not only for my own happiness and prosperity, but for that of the whole Country and all of Europe; and lastly that I may become every day less unworthy of my high station!"

24th May, 1685

John Evelyn writes in his diary: "We had hitherto not any rain for many months, insomuch as the Caterpillar had already devoured all the winter fruit through the whole land, and even killed several great and old trees; such two winters and summers I had never seen."