And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

1 August

John Flamsteed,

‘Sir Isaac Newton having, as I was told, presented his book of Principia, new printed, to the Queen, came to Greenwich, attended by Dr. Thorp, Dr. Halley, and his sons, Mr. Machin and Mr. Rowley. Mr. Hudson was with them, who had given me an intimation of it, the night before. But I had a letter of advice of it, directly from Mr. Machin. Sir I. Newton came first, about 3 o’clock; the others, half an hour after. Sir I. Newton said little till they entered; then he rose up and told me that by a Royal Order, by word of mouth, they were come down to visit the Observatory; to see what repairs were wanting, and what instruments. I gave them leave to go where they pleased, and sent my servant to wait on them, and show them all the places where repairs were wanting: and Mr. Clark and Mr. Ryley (whom I had sent for, on purpose to be witnesses of all that passed) accompanied them. I kept in my chamber: for I could not walk about with them. But, before they went out, I told them that the cogs in the greater semicircle were much worn; and that the instrument, for several reasons, was not very serviceable. And because Sir I. Newton had asked how we could observe a comet without it, I told him I could easily observe any comet that was visible in any part of the heavens, by a particular method that I knew of; but it was not now a time to talk of it; and that that instrument was my own. My friends and servants remember all that passed: I trouble not myself to report it. At parting, Sir I. Newton told me he had a Ptolemy of mine, and the minutes or night-notes of my observations, which he would return. I was glad to hear it; and told him I would retain his receipt for them. I pray God he be as good as his word.’

The first Astronomer Royal


Benjamin Haydon,

‘Went to see the King’s procession to open the London Bridge, by particular desire, that is, of Master Frank, Alfred, Frederick, Harry, & Mary Haydon, not forgetting Mrs Mary Haydon the Elder. Well, I went, to the gallery of St Paul’s, and after waiting about 5 hours, a little speck with a flag and another little speck with a flag, and another speck in which I saw ten white specks, and 6 red & yellow specks, came by, & immediately 200,000 specks uttered a shout I could just hear, and some specks waved handkerchiefs, & other specks raised hats, and this, they said, was the King, and directly a little round ball went up in the air and that, they said, was an air balloon, and then they all shouted, and Mrs Mary Haydon the Elder had a pain in her stomach, and Master Frederick wanted to drink, and Miss Mary said she was faint, and Master Frank Haydon said, ‘is this all?’ - and Mr Haydon said he was very hot, and then they went down an infinite number of dark stairs and got into a coach & drove home, & each fell asleep and this was pleasure. Now if Mr Haydon had gone to work with his Xenophon, neither Master or Mrs or Mr Haydon would have had a pain in their bellies and Mr Haydon’s Back-ground would have been done, and his Conscience would have been quiet, & now he has spent 1.18.6 to get a pain in his belly, and has the pain without the money - and this is pleasure.’

Thirst after grandeur


Sydney Moseley,

‘Met John Logie Baird; a charming man - a shy, quietly-spoken Scot. He could serve as a model for the schoolboy’s picture of a shock-haired, modest, dreamy, absent-minded inventor. Nevertheless shrewd. We sat and chatted. He told me he is having a bad time with the scoffers and sceptics - including the BBC and part of the technical press - who are trying to ridicule and kill his invention of television at its inception. I told him that if he would let me see what he has actually achieved - well, he would have to risk me damning it - or praising it! If I were convinced - I would battle for him. We got on well together and I have arranged to test his remarkable claim.

(Later) Saw television! Baird’s partner, a tall good-looking but highly temperamental Irishman, Captain Oliver George Hutchinson, was nice but very nervous of chancing it with me. He was terribly anxious I should be impressed. Liked the pair of them, especially Baird, and decided to give my support. [. . .] I think we really have what is called television. And so, once more into the fray!’

Saw television!


Charles McMoran Wilson,

‘Called at No. 10 to see if anything was wanted. The P.M. seemed abstracted. “There’s something very wrong there,” he muttered half to himself. “I must clear things up.” For a long time he has been worried by the reverses in the desert, and when he told me that he had asked Smuts to join him in Cairo, I knew he meant to bring things to a head. As I was leaving, he put down a telegram the secretary had just brought in.

“We may go to see Stalin. He won’t like what I have to say to him. I’m not looking forward to it.” The P.M. is turning over in his head how he can break the news to Stalin. He has to tell him that there will not be a Second Front in France this year.’

A third dose of pneumonia


Andrey Nikolaevich Kolmogorov,

‘New Moon. 6:30 am. It is a little misty and yet a sunny morning. Pusya and Oleg2 have gone swimming while I stay home being not very well (though my condition is improving). Anya has to work today, so she will not come. I ’m feeling annoyed and ill at ease because of that (for the second time our Sunday readings will be conducted without Anya).

Why begin this notebook now? There are two reasonable explanations: 1) I have long been attracted to the idea of a diary as a disciplining force. To write down what has been done and what changes are needed in one ’s life and to control their implementation is by no means a new idea, but it ’s equally relevant whether one is 16 or 40 years old. 2) Now that I’m 40, I feel more deeply as life flows and goes by since past experience has an independent significance as compared to what one expects at 16 or even 30, when everything is viewed as a preparation for a distant future. Hence the need to capture the present at the very moment it transits from the non-existence of something that has yet to happen to the non- existence of something that has already passed by.

Possibly, the third reason put forward is contentious. 3) The period of psychological research that began in February has been decided to be brought to an end. That caused a certain slackness in me and Pusya in July. So, this diary is being pursued to restore the discipline and at the same time to allow the passion for psychological research to be released in a more organised manner. Hopefully, there will not be too much of this research.

Eventually, this notebook might see some memories, thoughts, psychological analyses besides short current notes, but it will only happen after I have put my life in order.

Tasks to do now: 1) Finish small jobs as soon as possible (shooting, quality control, Lobachevsky). 2) Family matters (bring Vera and Varya, send Varya to Nadya, bring Anya from work and so on). 3) Maintain constant and steady work on big projects (analysis course, turbulence, spectra). Only later let mathematics join the variety of purely personal and general interests and hobbies that have flourished in the last two years.

Most important now: 1) Discipline in doing boring work. 2) Confident and consistent clearing [of tasks] to find possibilities for working calmly on big projects. 3) Fighting temptations (sweets, reading at the wrong time), including updating this notebook immoderately. (Agreement with Pusya to limit chatting!)

And where is love (Christian and non-Christian) I think a lot about and maybe talk too much about (for instance, to Oleg)? It seems that it is for the sake of love that I have to concentrate on disciplinary rules listed above!

Enough with reasoning! However, it ’s not prohibited to supplement records of labour deeds with short notes on moods and pleasures of life.’

Tasks to do now


Sylvia Plath,

‘Today is the first of August. It is hot, steamy and wet. It is raining. I am tempted to write a poem. But I remember what it said on one rejection slip: After a heavy rainfall, poems entitled RAIN pour in from across the nation.’

Hughes fishing; Plath in quicksand


Karl Ristikivi,

‘It is a very ordinary day, this day on which I begin my diary. I do not know which attempt this is, nor whether I will get farther with it this time than I did the previous times. But now I have decided to keep it for 10 years. Thus it would replace the newspaper clippings---which I am now finished with—after 10 years of work.

And so, for starters, my coordinates. I am 44 years old and work in the Solna health insurance office/---/This is located diagonally across the street at Rasundavägen 100, and I am sitting under the window.’

Estonian writer’s secret drawer


Seán Ó Ríordáin,

‘I feel that I know my own death, and have known it tor a long time. I feel that I died long ago, the same death I shall die later on. When I think of my own death, I do not think of something that has yet to happen, but of something that happened long ago but was forgotten. When I am of this mind, it seems to me that my death is what is most me. I think it is much more me than all the rest of my life.

Like everyone else, I am a rich man for I have death in the bank. I cannot be drawn upon, however; death cannot he spent until it has matured. Death is land that cannot he sold or tied up in money, and we must live our life without it. We are often impoverished, without as much as a penny to spend, despite all this wealth we have stored up.’

I know my own death


Arthur C. Clarke,

‘Ranger VII impacts on moon. Stay up late to watch the first TV closeups. Stanley starts to worry about the forthcoming Mars probes. Suppose they show something that shoots down our story line? [Later he approached Lloyd’s of London to see if he could insure himself against this eventuality.]’

Dreamed I was a robot


Philip Toynbee,

‘More than two months have passed since I finished a course of ECT at Bristol, and for the past six weeks I have been almost entirely free of depression. No exorbitant elation, thank God, but the dazed incredulity of a prisoner suddenly let out into ordinary daylight after three years in a dungeon.

But I must beware of such extravagant images as this; for whatever purpose this diary is meant to serve it certainly won’t serve at all unless I keep it as simple and as truthful as I can. The depression, which began in a desultory way about seven years ago, was acute from 1974 to June of this year. (But the word ‘acute’ is also a dubious one, for although I was sometimes incapacitated for days on end I was often in reasonable working order for a week or more.)

Yes; but even on the best days there was that perpetual fear of a form of possession which sometimes came as suddenly as a blow.’

Toynbee and depression


Edith Roller,
cult victim

‘Although it was very late Jim took up another matter: Norman Ijames, after having been gone for six months, had informed the Temple he would be returning this week, he had not communicated with his wife Judy and child, had sent no money. He had been reported with another woman, some of our people had talked to him while in Miami, though he had been offered a job at the airport in Georgetown he was flying on lines that did not bring him in to Guyana. The fact that he is a pilot may have some significance with regard to his activities in view of the aerial surveillance of Jonestown by the National Enquirer plane and reports of planned mercenary attacks on us. Many members spoke of Norm’s characteristics: spoiled by his parents, cherished as the only son, avoidance of physical labor, pride in his appearance, which made it possible that he could have deserted to our enemies. Jim said that the government had told us the CIA had a plant in our membership who might come here.’

Life at Jonestown


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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.

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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.