And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

5 April

1689
John Reresby,
politician

‘I received the unfortunate news of the death of my son George by the small-pox - a very beautiful, apt, understanding child. It was a great affliction to me; but God gives, and God takes, and blessed be the name of the Lord.’

The most barbarous murder

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1722
Jacob Roggeveen,
sailor and explorer

‘When we approached nearer the land we saw distinctly from a short distance that the description of the sandy and low island did not accord in the least with our discovery. Furthermore, it could not be the same land which the aforesaid voyagers claim to have seen stretching 14 to 16 leagues in front of them, and near the highland which Dampier judged to be the coast-line of the unknown south. That Easter Island can not be the sandy island described by Davis is clear, because that was small and low, while on the contrary Easter Island is high and towers above the sea, having also two elevations rising above the level part. It would not be possible to mistake, even at the dry season of the year, the grass and verdure that covers the hill-sides for barren sand. After the Dutch custom of the day, the admiral assembled the commanders of the three vessels composing his fleet - the Arend, the African Galley, and the Thienhoven - in council to pass formal resolutions claiming the discovery of the land. The proceedings of the assembly state that on Easter day land was sighted about 9 miles distant, of moderate height, and containing an area of about 6 Dutch miles. The weather being calm the vessels were not able to secure an anchorage near the land until the next day, The island was found to be destitute of trees, but with a fertile soil producing bananas, potatoes, and sugar-cane of extraordinary thickness. It was unanimously agreed that both from the difference in the location as well as the appearance of the land seen by Davis, the fact was established beyond doubt that the island just discovered could not be the same. These proceedings, being drawn up, were formally signed by Jacob Roggeveen, Jan Koster, Cornelius Bonman, and Roelof Rosendaal. After sailing from Easter Island the vessels spent a number of days in it search for the low sandy island described by Davis, but not with success.’

Roggeveen and Easter Island

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1837
Cécile Mendelssohn,
wife of composer

‘In the morning we walked for a good half-mile along the Rhine as far as the river crossing. Misunderstandings on the way. Made plans at the boatman’s cottage. Return at three for lunch. In the afternoon Felix played the organ of an atrociously decorated church - a wretched box of whistles. Walk to the cathedral and down into the crypt, but no spring. The sacristy - the subterranean chapel with its strange pillars. In the course of the evening and well into the night endured the loathsome company of Rhinelanders who behaved little better than their large dogs.’

Mendelssohn’s honeymoon

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1841
John Quincy Adams,
politician

‘The corpse of the late President Harrison was laid out, in a plain coffin covered with black velvet, on a table in the middle of the entrance hall at the President’s house. At two p.m., I went, with my wife and Mrs. Smith, and took a last look at the face of the patriot warrior, taken away thus providentially from the evil to come.’

Election of a president

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1893
Ethel Turner,
writer

‘There is the dearest old lady here, she is 86 and her husband was Colonel Otterly of the Royal Engineers. She has lived the most wonderful life, was brought up in St James Palace where her father was a favourite courtier in George IV’s time, went to India, was attacked by pirates, shot a tiger, and did wonderful things in India. I sat in her room all the evening and she told me hundreds of stories. I am really fond of the girls, they are very nice - I think they reciprocate it too. They quarrel for the last kiss from me at night, who is to sit next to me, etc. etc.’

Seven Little Australians

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1909
Robert E Peary,
sailor and explorer

‘Over the 89th!! Started early last evening. The march a duplicate of previous one as to weather & going. temp at starting -35˚. Sledges appeared to haul a little easier, dog on trot much of the time. Last two hours on young ice of a north & south lead they were often galloping. 10 hours. 25 miles or more. Great.

A 50 yd lead open when I reached it moved enough by time sledges came up to let us cross. Still this biting cold, the face burning for hours. (like the Inland Ice),

The natives complain of it & at every camp are fixing fixing their clothes about the face, waist, knees & wrist. They complain of their noses, which I never knew them to do before. it is keen & bitter as frozen steel. Light air from S during first of march, veering to E & freshening as we camp. Another dog expended here. Tomorrow if ice & weather permit, I shall make a long march, ‘boil the kettle’ midway, & try to make up the 5 miles lost on the 3rd.

We have been very fortunate with the leads so far, but I am in constant & increasing dread of encountering an uncrossable one. Six weeks today since I left the Roosevelt.’

The Pole at last!!!

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1912
Reginald Marsh,
artist

‘GOOD FRIDAY I went to New York this morning and bought two Norfolk suits at Rogers Peet. I bought a hat at Mcreery and a five store hunt. I reached home at 2.30 and changed my clothes. It was really hot. I met Jack Wilson and we went down at the brook. I caught a snake and bought 1/2 dozen hot cross buns. We went down to the brook and two little kids jumped in the quick mud. A few kids came around and meanwhile the little kids were jumping in the mud until it had reached their knees.’

Pictures and vaudeville

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1935
Leon Trotsky,
politician

‘Life is not an easy matter. . . You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness.’

Trotsky’s indispensability

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1944
Rywka Lipszyc,
teenager

‘Because of the holidays there is a lot of commotion. But not everything is positive, unfortunately. Yesterday those who registered for matzos didn’t get any bread. They can starve for a few days or eat matzos. Well, it’s not so easy to be a Jew. At every step there are difficulties. And the weather is capricious, too, although no doubt it is much better, but … children who were adopted receive coupons, so Cipka and I do, too. What we’ll get, I don’t know, that will become clear today. Some kitchens were registering people for the holiday soup. A few girls from our group are leaving at 10 a.m. Today, we’ll find out. Anyway! I wish it were a holiday right now! During the holidays I won’t know where to go first, to Dorka Zand, to Mrs. Lebensztajn, to Dorka Borensztajn and … and I don’t know myself, and now … I’ve planned to write tomorrow, but I don’t know whether I’ll be able to or whether I’ll have an opportunity.

Three years ago the holidays fell on the same days. It was the last holiday, the last Seder with my Daddy. Oh, time goes by so quickly! Daddy was supposed to be released from the hospital for the holidays. Ereve Peysech [the Eve of Passover] like this year, fell on Friday, so Daddy came back on Thursday (like tomorrow). We, the children, were very impatient all day and every few minutes we would approach the window or the balcony to see if an ambulance was coming. […] I couldn’t stay still in one spot but I remember how happy I was that Daddy was coming back. We, the children, weren’t allowed in the hospital, so we would write letters and Mom would take them to Daddy. I discovered so much love for us in Daddy’s letters. God! Perhaps because of this separation, because of these letters, I loved him even more.

In the winter I saw Daddy in the hospital window. He was cheerful, he could easily pour his own reassurance into me, he said he was better, and soon we’d see each other. Didn’t I see for myself that he was doing better? Yes, that’s why I still believed his words. I was full of hope and reassurance myself. Later, Daddy took a turn for the worse, the hospital itself was getting worse, but nevertheless Daddy was supposed to come home for the holidays.

On that Thursday I didn’t remember or I didn’t want to remember that Daddy was feeling much worse than in the winter. However, I was very happy that finally he’d be at home. At that time I remembered only the good things, like Daddy holding my hand on Yom Kippur, the letters and the visits. […] In the evening, at last the ambulance stopped in front of the gate. I was on the balcony and my heart totally stopped for a second. And then it started to pound so violently that I thought my chest would explode. I had no idea what to do: stay in place or run to the door. I don’t exactly remember what I did. I only know that it seemed forever when my Daddy was climbing the stairs. Finally, finally, Daddy was in the room and … how disappointed I was … it wasn’t the same Daddy as the one in the hospital window. He didn’t even smile, didn’t respond to our greetings. He was upset and visibly tired. He wanted to go to bed as soon as possible. We had to leave the room.

God! This feeling! It was in the evening, but the light wasn’t on yet. In that darkness everything was black in front of my eyes. I simply didn’t see anything or anyone. Like a drunk I stumbled into the other room. I felt like sobbing, but I didn’t. I remained silent. Various thoughts were running through my head: what’s wrong with Daddy? Why is he so different? I didn’t expect this. […] I was telling myself that he was only tired, but I was overcome by a strange anxiety. I was bothered by the thought that Daddy wasn’t thinking about us. […] It is true, later I calmed down about the change in Daddy. We even talked to him, although I was very shy, but in my heart … there was a pain, a sorrow in my heart. I don’t know, I don’t know what to call it. Such feelings always wear me out, reduce my energy. I’m unable to do anything. When Daddy wanted a cup of tea, I brought it for him with great difficulty. I had to bring it, because it would look bad that here he is from the hospital and I’m disobedient. The next day I tried to do everything right, although Daddy was very upset. I tried to make every good moment last and not irritate him. Oh, nobody will ever know how hard it was for me and how “cold” I was feeling. And yet nobody knew. […] I withdrew into myself. Nobody could get anything out of me. After all nobody even supposed that I was worried. Oh, how much I needed a kind word, how much I wanted to be alone with Daddy. I wanted him to be like he was in the past. I missed all that and I felt so helpless, so helpless.

After a few days Daddy regained his cheerfulness and good spirits, but I didn’t have any more opportunities to fulfill my dreams. We were all very happy to be in one room with Daddy. We didn’t talk much, but we exchanged looks. Oh, those looks! I couldn’t say anything at all, not even that I wished him to get better, nothing … simply nothing. I was very awkward. But I wanted to, I wanted to. Only God knows this, because I didn’t tell anybody.

Oh, now I’m remembering it all. I can’t even look at Daddy anymore, only at his picture. But I’ll never see Daddy alive, never see him alive again, never again. God! How terrible it is! It’s going to be the third Seder without Daddy, and the second one without any man at all. Last year Aunt Chaiska was here, and today … today there is Estusia. Oh, it’s so tragic! If only Abramek were here! Oh, God, precisely on Pesach, at the Seder, Daddy will be missed most. Oh, he’ll be missed so much …’

I don’t feel like living

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Why Ever Did I Want to Write is a patchwork of themed stories about one man’s early life, embracing highs and lows but driven by a desire to make the most of being alive, to experience, to feel, and above all to understand. Reminiscent of Karl Knausgaard’s A Death in the Family and Theodore Zeldin’s An Intimate History of Humanity, this memoir, often based on diaries, sees Lyons reflecting on a repressed childhood, exploring the world through years of travelling, and searching for meaning and excitement in the arts and love affairs – an archetype of the counterculture in the 1970s and 1980s.

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Kip Fenn is a success: his career has taken off within a major UN agency trying to spread wealth from the rich to the poor. But all is not well with the world - the golden age of oil and chips is now over, and unsustainable development is leading to social turmoil, and to world war. Kip has found love and a new family, but he can find no way to stop his older children self-destruct; nor does he realise his partner’s deceit.

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Third time lucky - Kip Fenn finds true love. His UN career though is ending with a whimper. Another terrible war is cut short by the devastating Grey Years, and while nations rebuild many individuals turn Notek. In restless retirement, Kip’s lifelong passion for vintage photos sees him launching a new arts institution. But who is the mysterious visitor by his bedside, and how will she affect his planned deathday?

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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.

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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.