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87 In her diary Mary Cobb (neé Blackburn), a member of a Baptist congregation in Margate, responded to the outbreak of war in 1793 with a series of spiritual meditations on the fate of Britain, in which she reflected upon the link between individual and national salvation. ‘The times are very dark’ she wrote: The Lord only knows what will be the issue of this heavy cloud that hangs over our guilty heads as a nation ... It matters not who is against us if He be for us ... 88 Blackburn’s diary continued in this heavily introspective vein, the war acting as a backdrop and prompt to her religious reflections and personal monitoring.

27 These concessions were closely linked to fears that radical unrest would infiltrate the armed forces, the potentially devastating effects of which were demonstrated during the naval mutinies of 1797. 29 During the wars, public perceptions of the armed forces and its members veered between hostility, pity and admiration as they had done for much of the eighteenth century. 32 While a more romanticized image of the British navy’s ‘Jolly Jack Tar’ circulated in the cultural imaginary, the plight of the sailor torn from his family to spend years at sea at risk of shipwreck, disease and flogging also featured prominently in popular ballads.

76 Furthermore, space for reflection or elaboration on events may be constrained by the printed pocket book format in which these diaries were often written. Even when they did not use a specific printed diary or memorandum book, diarists often imitated their form, ruling the page to construct evenly spaced boxes into which their entries could be written. The relationship between these cursory entries and the broader wartime context, however, can be reconstructed by attending to diaries’ extra-textual or printed apparatus.

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