And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

16 April

Nehemiah Wallington,

‘On the XVI day of Apriel (1632) being Monday at night betwext VIII and IX a cloke as I was in my shope came tow sargents one cilisetor and a broker and the sargent said to me that I was baile for one Jackson a yeere agoe, and now where he was they knew not: and therefore he said he was come for forescore pounds worth of my goods, and he said he must goe up into my cheching[.] at these words I was amased and put in grate feare[.] then I sent for my brother John and he came unto me, and they shewed him theyr warrant what he had to doe and so went up into the ceching where my wife was a providing supper (for her Brother and sister which ware come out of the contrie thinking to be merie together)[.] my wife seing a stranger coming in such a manner and saying he was come for forescore pounds worth of goods and hanging his cloke on the doore saying he would begin with the peuter first it did frite her very much: looking very pale on the matter and went downe into the shope and wronge her hands bursting out a weeping and then being with childe did miscarrye, and I rune to Tempel bare to find my brother Crosse to aske his counsell but I could not find him but before I came againe my Brother John and my Brother Kiffet told them if they wolde be contented till mornning they would be bound that nothing should be sterred but everything should stand in his place, but they would not: at the last they would have my Brothers bonds to pay them XV pound the next Satterday: So they made them a bonde.’

My filthy polluted heart


George Washington,

‘About ten o’clock I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity; and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York in company, with Mr. Thompson, and colonel Humphries, with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations.’

Washington’s domestic felicity


Mirza Abul Hassan Khan,

‘I walked in the Park, enjoying the trees and the flowers. From there we went to a vast three-storey building set in a large wooded park on the river at Chelsea. It is called the Royal Hospital [founded by Charles II in 1691] and it houses retired soldiers over fifty years of age who spend the rest of their lives in peace and comfort. They are provided with clothing and food by the English Government: 500 men sit down together for meals. Most of the men I saw there had suffered wounds in battle and had had an arm or leg amputated.

In addition to these soldiers, 12,000 pensioners live at home with their families: they each receive twelve tomans a year from the Government. Near the Hospital is another large stone building built eight years ago by the second Royal Prince, the Duke of York, for children whose fathers were killed in the wars.

I do not know if the King is a religious man, but God must be pleased with him for building this house and caring for orphans. And his soldiers must be all the more loyal and willing to risk their lives in battle if they can look forward to a comfortable old age in the Chelsea Hospital.’

I was utterly amazed!


Frances Dallam Peter,

‘They have taken the house near the college that was used for a hospital by De Courcy for a hospital for some of the soldiers here & Mr. John Dudley who occupied one half of the place received orders to move & left this morning, a good riddance. The 42 Ohio Col Shelton & the 18th Ky. Col Warner are here at the fairground. It was discovered the other day that one of Lindsay’s [22nd Ky.] men who was left at the hospital had the smallpox & there has been no end to the trouble that was had getting a place to put him.’

A stir in consequence


Richard Wagner,

‘In my whole life I do not think I have ever been so sad as I am now!! - How easily that is said, and how unspeakable it is -

I walked home, and sank down from exhaustion. A brief, leaden sleep such as often drives out a cold fetched up all the misery of my life as if from the depths of my soul. I yearn for major illness and death. I have no inclination any more, no will!

Would there an end to it, an end!
Today she has left, - What this leaving has said!
What is the use of any seeing each other again?
The leaving remains. It is wretched!’

[On being separated from Cosima, a separation that would last 15 months.]

How storms rage ever


John Ruskin,
writer and artist

‘Wednesday. Y[esterday] a hot, thunderous day. I very languid and ill, hearing from Joanna of her mother’s death. My work all hanging fire sadly.

Primroses and periwinkles a great comfort.

Dreamed last night that I saw my Fluelen Turner blown down a steep bank into the sea; that I woke from my dream and said what a relief it was to find it was only a dream; that nevertheless I might as well go down to look at the sea; and there, sure enough, was my Turner floating in it, in its frame. When I took it out, the salt was crystallized all over the picture, moist, and I could not think how to wash it off, or carry the picture - for we were travelling. I was announcing my misfortune to my father, when I woke in reality.

Plagued also with letters from madmen and fools, whom I am mad and foolish enough to try to mend.’ 

John Ruskin’s birthdays


Paul Klee,

‘In the morning, painted outside the city; a gently diffused light falls, at once mild and clear. No fog. Then sketched in town. A stupid guide provided a comic element. August taught him German words, but what words. In the afternoon, he took us to the mosque. The sun darted through, and how! We rode a while on the donkey.

In the evening, through the streets. A cafe decorated with pictures. Beautiful watercolors. We ransacked the place buying. A street scene around a mouse. Finally someone killed it with a shoe. We landed at a sidewalk cafe. An evening of colors as tender as they were clear. Virtuosos at checkers. Happy hour. Louis found exquisite color tidbits and I was to catch them, since I am so skillful at it.

I now abandon work. It penetrates so deeply and so gently into me, I feel it and it gives me confidence in myself without effort. Color possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter.’[In Tunisia]

Colour possesses me


Mikhail Bulgakov,

‘Just returned from the opening of the railwaymen’s congress at the Assembly of Nobility (now Union House). The entire editorial hoard of the Hooter, with very few exceptions, was there. My job with others, was to correct the shorthand report.

In the circular hall, divided by a thick curtain from the Hall of Columns, there was the clatter of typewriters and the bright electric lights of the chandeliers glowing in their frosted white shades. Kalinin, in a dark-blue shirt, round-shouldered, mispronouncing his Rs and his Ls, appeared and said something or other. In the dazzling floodlights they were filming everywhere.

After the first session, there was a concert. Mordkin and the ballerina Kriger danced together. Mordkin is handsome, flirtatious. Performers from the Bolshoi sang, including, amongst others, Viktorov, a Jew, a dramatic tenor with a repellently piercing but huge voice. A certain Golovin, a baritone from the Bolshoi, also sang. It turns out that he is a former deacon from Stavropol. Joined the Stavropol Opera and within three months was singing the part of the Demon - and then, a year or so later, found himself the Bolshoi. Incomparable voice.’

Manuscripts don’t burn


Harry Kessler,
diplomat and writer

‘General demobilization and disarmament of the various civil war armies. It is a radical liquidation of the situation which, on my return to Germany, so surprised and disquieted me. At that time, a month ago, we really stood on the edge of a civil war between perfectly drilled, organized, armed, and fully equipped armies of several hundred thousand men on each side, simply waiting for the signal to attack one another. That this situation has been resolved by a stroke of the pen, that the SA and the SS (reputedly four hundred thousand men) allowed themselves with such lamblike patience to be disarmed and broken up (nowhere did they put up any resistance worth mentioning) seems almost suspicious.

If the operation has indeed been carried out seriously and thoroughly, it signifies the greatest change in public affairs since the defeat of the Spartacus uprising in March 1919. The behaviour of Hitler and his followers seems pretty chicken-hearted in comparison, but may well be consistent with the infirm, strongly feminine character of Hitler and his entourage. Therein too they resemble William II, loud-mouthed and nothing behind it when it comes to the point. A fully equipped army of four hundred thousand men (so Hitler maintains, and he probably believes it) and then, without the slightest resistance, unconditional surrender! One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry! Is this the ‘German desire for military preparedness’ which Hitler ostensibly wants to re-awaken and invigorate? Pitiable!’

Dined with the Einsteins


Robert Menzies,

‘Tonight the enemy is passing overhead. You can hear him. The search lights are operating – and the crack of the guns in the park opposite is deafening. To look out of window you switch out the lights and peep through the curtain. An eerie experience, the sky occasionally flashing like lightning with the explosion of the A.A. shells. London is so vast that the German bombers pass over it on their way to any of the Midland or Northern cities. But how many A.A. shells are fired per hit God only knows. While the uproar goes on the buses and taxis still rumble along Park Lane!

Later. I was wrong. They were not passing. 460 of them were attacking London, and a dozen large bombs fell within 100 yards of the Dorchester. It was a terrible experience. Invited up to the second floor for a drink with two elderly ladies (one of them John Lowther’s mother), we had scarcely sat down when a great explosion and blast shattered the windows of the room, blew the curtains in, split the door, and filled the room with acrid fumes. Twice the whole building seemed to bounce with the force of the concussion. Twice I visited the ground floor, and found it full of white-faced people. Tritton went out to escort a guest home, got into the blitz, had his taxi driver wounded and the wind-screen broken, and took the wheel himself!

The sky beyond the Palace was red with fire and smoke, the sky was flashing like lightning. It is a horrible sound to hear the whistle of a descending stick of bombs, any one of them capable of destroying a couple of five-storey houses, and to wonder for a split second if it is going to land on your windows!

Just before dawn, at about 5 a.m., Tritton, Landau and I went for a walk to see the damage. There were buildings down and great craters within 100 yards of the hotel on the side away from the park. In Brook Street buildings were blazing. A great plume of red smoke rose from Selfridge’s. Gas mains blazed in Piccadilly. The houses fronting the Green Park were red and roaring. There were craters and fallen masonry in the streets, and the fear of an unexploded bomb lurking around every corner. Wherever we walked, we crunched over acres of broken glass. This is the “new order”. How can it go on for years?’

Churchill grows on me


Ned Rorem,

‘Sitting in one denuded room whose center contains a mountain of packing cases to be removed tomorrow by Robert Phelps. Without paying last month’s rent I fly Friday for London, meanwhile have already left, can only sit, wondering, for five days more.

Wondering about those three things (and there are only three) we all desire: success in love, success in society, success in work. Any two of these may be achieved and possessed simultaneously, but not all three - there isn’t time. If you think you have the three, beware! You’re teetering on the abyss. You can’t have a lover and friends and career. And even just career and love are, in the long run, mutually exclusive.’

Self-exposing massacre


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And so made significant . . .
is the world’s greatest online anthology of diary extracts. It is presented in the same way as popular books like The Assassin’s Cloak and The Faber Book of Diaries, i.e. by calendar day, but contains more, and many longer, extracts than is possible in published books. Moreover, for each quoted extract there’s a link to a Diary Review article with some or all of the following: further extracts, biographical information, contexts, a portrait, and links to online sources/etexts. Furthermore, new extracts are added on a regular basis.

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Notes and Cautions
In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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Any author, publisher or other copyright holder who takes the view that I am unacceptably breaching their copyright please let me know. I have tried to remain sensitive to copyright rules (using far fewer quotes, for example, when a book, by an author still alive, remains in print and popular), but it is not practical for me to seek authorisation for every quote and article, since I maintain these websites without any funding or advertis-ing. I take the view that publicity for the source books is a quid pro quo for my use of the extracts, but I am more than happy to remove the extracts if asked.

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The Diary Junction is one of those wonderful privately maintained public resources for which the Internet is justly celebrated: a database of information about celebrated and obscure diaries[over 500] from all historical periods, with referrals to the dates the diaries cover, where the originals are held and bibliographic information on published versions.’ Laura Miller, Salon

The Diary Review, hosted by Blogger, publishes magazine-style articles on diaries and diarists, several times a week. Now over ten years old, The Diary Review is the secondary source for the extracts in this online anthology.