And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

28 April

John Home,
poet and playwright

‘Mr Hume told me, that he had bought a piece of ground; and when I seemed surprised that I had never heard of it, he said it was in the New Church-yard, on the Calton Hill, for a burying-place; that he meant to have a small monument erected, not to exceed in expence one hundred pounds; that the inscription should be ‘DAVID HUME’. I desired him to change the discourse. He did so; but seemed surprised at my uneasiness which he said was very nonsensical. I think he is gaining ground; but he laughs at me, and says it is impossible; that the year (76), sooner or later, he takes his departure. He is willing to go Bath, to travel during the summer through England, and return to Scotland to die at home; but that Sir John Pringle, and the whole faculty, would find it very difficult to boat him, (formerly an unusual phrase in Scotland for going abroad, that is, out of the island, for health) This day we travelled by his desire three stages, and arrived with great east at Grantham.’

Home and Hume


Henry Pelham-Clinton,

‘Mr Thompson went to Eton to arrange and prepare every thing for Lincoln’s arrival . . . it seems that nothing is found there in private houses, beds, linen and all furniture and utensils to be found by the occupiers.’

My courage failed


Anthony Ashley Cooper,
politician and philanthropist

‘My birthday, and now I am twenty-five years old - a great age for one who is neither wise, nor good, nor useful, nor endowed with capability of becoming so. People would answer me, ‘Why, you have not lost your time, you have always been engaged;’ quite true, but always upon trifles; indeed, since my quitting Oxford, a space now of three years, I have absolutely done harm to my intellects, by false reasoning which, however rare it may have been, is the only exercise which has disturbed my mental indolence. What might have been performed in three years? but not a study commenced, not an object pursued; not a good deed done, not a good thought generated: for my thoughts are too unsteady for the honour of that title. Visions without end, but, God be praised, all of a noble character. I fancy myself in wealth and power, exerting my influence for the ends that I sought it for, for the increase of religion and true happiness. No man had ever more ambition, and probably my seeming earnestness for great and good purposes was merely a proof of hotter ambition and deeper self- deception than exists in others. That I am not completely in despair must come from God who knows, [. . .] Latterly I have taken to hard study. It amuses me and prevents mischief. Occasionally the question ‘cui bono’ sours my spirit of application; but generally speaking, I have stilled the passions. An attachment during my residence at Vienna commenced a course of self-knowledge for me. Man never has loved more furiously or more imprudently. The object was, and is, an angel, but she was surrounded by, and would have brought with her, a halo of hell.’

My birthday again


Henri-Frédéric Amiel,

‘For a psychologist it is extremely interesting to be readily and directly conscious of the complications of one’s own organism and the play of its several parts. It seems to me that the sutures of my being are becoming just loose enough to allow me at once a clear perception of myself as a whole and a distinct sense of my own brittleness. A feeling like this makes personal existence a perpetual astonishment and curiosity. Instead of only seeing the world which surrounds me, I analyze myself. Instead of being single, all of apiece, I become legion, multitude, a whirlwind - a very cosmos. Instead of living on the surface, I take possession of my inmost self , I apprehend myself, if not in my cells and atoms, at least so far as my groups of organs, almost my tissues, are concerned. In other words, the central monad isolates itself from all the subordinate monads, that it may consider them, and finds its harmony again in itself.

Health is the perfect balance between our organism, with all its component parts, and the outer world; it serves us especially for acquiring a knowledge of that world. Organic disturbance obliges us to set up a fresh and more spiritual equilibrium, to withdraw within the soul. Thereupon our bodily constitution itself becomes the object of thought. It is no longer we, although it may belong to us; it is nothing more than the vessel in which we make the passage of life, a vessel of which we study the weak points and the structure without identifying it with our own individuality.

Where is the ultimate residence of the self? In thought, or rather in consciousness. But below consciousness there is its germ, the punctum saliens of spontaneity; for consciousness is not primitive, it becomes. The question is, can the thinking monad return into its envelope, that is to say, into pure spontaneity, or even into the dark abyss of virtuality? I hope not. The kingdom passes; the king remains; or rather is it the royalty alone which subsists - that is to say, the idea - the personality begin in its turn merely the passing vesture of the permanent idea? Is Leibnitz or Hegel right? Is the individual immortal under the form of the spiritual body? Is he eternal under the form of the individual idea? Who saw most clearly, St Paul or Plato? The theory of Leibnitz attracts me most because it opens to us an infinite of duration, of multitude, and evolution. For a monad, which is the virtual universe, a whole infinite of time is not too much to develop the infinite within it. Only one must admit exterior actions and influences which affect the evolution of the monad. Its independence must be a mobile and increasing quantity between zero and the infinite, without ever reaching either completeness or nullity, for the monad can be neither absolutely passive nor entirely free.’

The most beautiful poem

******************************************************* *******************************

Anthony Ashley Cooper,
politician and philanthropist

‘My birthday, and I have now struck the figure of eighty-three. It is wonderful, it is miraculous, with my infirmities, and even sufferings, of body, with sensible decline of mental application and vigour, I yet retain, by God’s mercy, some power to think and to act. May He grant, for Christ’s sake, that, to my last hour, I may be engaged in His service, and in the full knowledge of all that is around and before me! Cobden used to say of D’Israeli - I have heard him more than once - “What a retrospect that man will have!” Retrospects must be terrible to every one who measures and estimates his hopes by the discharge of his duties here on earth. Unless he be overwhelmed with self-righteousness, he must see that, when weighed in the balance he will be found wanting. But what are the prospects? They may be bright, joyous certain, in the faith and fear of the Lord Jesus.’

My birthday again


Miguel de Unamuno,
writer and philosopher

‘Read the ninth chapter of the Gospel of St John. I am a blind man in whom the works of God must be made manifest. Anoint my eyes with clay, Lord, and lead me to wash in the pool of Siloam, in the confessional, so that I may return with sight restored. Give me strength, for I have no will.

And later I will say, to your glory: yes, I am he who sat and begged for human glory. Jesus took clay and anointed my eyes and said to go to the pool of Siloam, and I went, and once I had washed, I saw.

The Lord has made clay out of the dust to which I reduced everything by means of analysis in my passage across the desert of intellectualism, and He has placed it upon my eyes, so that I might desire to see, and then go and wash and see.’

Go and wash and see


Alfred Edgar Coppard,

‘Each field & road & hedge were charged with clamour & thunder of the great wind which bored into you with a fierce splendid power. But on this bright day the constant motion of the shining grass was wonderful to see, & slipping up over the hill the land seemed living. At one point I stood back to the wind, face to the sun, & the tall greenmeat went scurrying away like myriads of tiny beasts galloping in panic until they reached a little hilloc; over there they lost form & it all looked like a lot of water boiling furiously. So on to Bevendean, past the roaring wood, & behind the barn where all was quiet & warm. I saw 2 red & black butterflies. Further on, sitting on a sheltered bank, I watched the rooks trying to beat into the wind, but each had to drop down & travel close to the earth.’

Prize money for books


Aubrey Herbert,

‘I got up at 4 a.m. this morning, after a fine, quiet night, and examined a Greek deserter from the Turkish Army. He said many would desert if they did not fear for their lives. The New Zealanders spare their prisoners.

Last night, while he was talking to me, Colonel C. was hit by a bit of shell on his hat. He stood quite still while a man might count three, wondering if he was hurt. He then stooped down and picked it up. At 8 p.m. last night there was furious shelling in the gully. Many men and mules hit. General Godley was in the Signalling Office, on the telephone, fairly under cover. I was outside with Pinwell, and got grazed, just avoiding the last burst. Their range is better. Before this they have been bursting the shrapnel too high. It was after 4 p.m. Their range improved so much. My dugout was shot through five minutes before I went there. So was Shaw’s . . .’

11 a.m. All firing except from Helles has ceased. Things look better. The most the men can do is to hang on. General Godley has been very fine. The men know it.

4.30 p.m. Turks suddenly reported to have mounted huge howitzer on our left flank, two or three miles away. We rushed all the ammunition off the beach, men working like ants, complete silence and furious work. We were absolutely enfiladed, and they could have pounded us, mules and machinery, to pulp, or driven us into the gully and up the hill, cutting us off from our water and at the same time attacking us with shrapnel. The ships came up and fired on the new gun, and proved either that it was a dummy or had moved, or had been knocked out. It was a cold, wet night.’

Herbert goes to war


John Fowles,

‘What a diary must preserve - the attitudes and nature of the diarist. Therefore, all excision, amendment, clarification, cleaning; one must think. The language can be cleaned, perhaps; but every change from the written word is a lie. In my case, if I ever revised, I should want to hide the self-excusing, the priggishness.’

Nature of the diarist


Cecil Beaton,

‘It is strange that at an age of over 60, I should be able to work myself into such a nervous condition at the idea of photographing Picasso. I was certainly extremely on edge. I remember when I first photographed him in the early thirties, at that time I could speak very little French.’

Nerves before a sitting


Joe DiMaggio,

‘Up at 5am . . . Book people felt me out with questions pertaining to baseball. Some part of my private life but not too strong on that. Will not reveal anything in a negative way towards Marilyn - only books that have come out on her might have not been truthful.’

DiMaggio’s diary - $33 a word


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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.

For any other use of these diary extracts other than browsing please refer to the original sources.

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.

SITE DEVISED by Paul K Lyons

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.