The Diarists: This week in history


Ian Irvine
Friday 23 May 2014 18:09 BST

25th May, 1835

Emily Shore, aged 15: "I think much better of London now than when I first came, which was in very gloomy weather… But still I am horrified at the mischief done by the smoke. Almost all the houses are blackened, the yards and back premises are covered in soot, the trunks of all the trees are black, all plants become dingy, clothes get tarnished, the hands can hardly be kept clean, and in some winds great puffs of smoke enter the open windows. The extreme blackness and dinginess of the sparrows… is also worthy of note." [Shore died of consumption four years later.]

29th May, 1954

Frances Partridge, translator: "To Oxford to see Burgo [her son], and after lunch to watch the Eights-week boat races among crowds of variously elegant and dandified young men, many wearing beautiful snow-white flannels, straw hats and huge button-holes. There was a great feeling of youth, high-spirits and promiscuous elan; also a lot of pretty girls with peach-like complexions and ugly clothes. Drizzle fell sparsely, the river glittered like tin under a grey sky flaming with sunlight at the horizon, the races created… moments of excitement and roars of 'House! House!' like a cheerful dog barking. "

31st May, 1973

James Lees-Milne, writer: "I receive a letter Nancy [Mitford] still in her firm hand, but misspelt and shaky, and piteous. It begins, 'It's very curious dying and would have many a drole, amusing & charming side were it not for the pain. We had screams over the Will.' Then she says the doctors are tiresome – they will not give her a date for her death. They merely say 'Have you everything you want?' meaning as much morphia. I have been haunted by this letter all day. Extraordinary that someone on the threshold of death can write like this, and still make jokes."

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