And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

13 August

Duke of Württemberg

‘Over the river at London there is a beautiful long bridge, with quite splendid, handsome, and well-built houses, which are occupied by merchants of consequence. Upon one of the towers, nearly in the middle of the bridge, are stuck up about thirty-four heads of persons of distinction, who had in former times been condemned and beheaded for creating riots and from other causes.’ [This practice of dipping the heads of executed men in tar and displaying them on pikes had been going on since the 14th century and would not stop until the mid-17th century.]

34 heads on London Bridge


Roger Boyle,
soldier and politician

‘. . . and to the new play, at the Duke’s house, of Henry the Fifth; a most noble play, writ by my Lord Orrery; wherein Betterton, Harris, and Ianthe’s parts are most incomparably wrote and done, and the whole play the most full of height and raptures of wit and sense, that ever I heard; having but one incongruity, or what did, not please me in it, that is, that King Harry promises to plead for Tudor to their Mistresse, Princesse Katherine of France, more than when it comes to it he seems to do; and Tudor refused by her with some kind of indignity, not with a difficulty and honour that it ought to have been done in to him. Thence home and to my office, wrote by the post, and then to read a little in Dr Power’s book of discovery by the Microscope to enable me a little how to use and what to expect from my glasse. So to supper and to bed.’

Height and raptures


Polly Lavinia Crandall Coon,

‘Dr Weber grew worse after stoping, medicine had no effect & about 1 o’clock at night he died. Our Co for the first time have the sad duty to perform of burying one of their number. Jane is also quite sick of a Diareah but we hope not dangerous. Samuel does not not improve much. The weather is so very hot & dusty that very many are complaining & the dust is the greatest hardship to endure we have found on our whole journey. But we hope for better times.’

We hope for better times


John Dearman Birchall,

‘We joined the Townhead party on the moors, Edward Birchall, Charles Armitage etc. It was very warm and fatiguing. I never saw half as many birds before. We shot 49 1/2 brace.’

The tricycle diaries


Hubert Parry,

‘I went all over it again and revived the memories of that delightful time when Maude and I were there alone, many years ago. A time I like to look back to almost more than any in my life. It was so peaceful and happily contented. It’s funny though how I had forgotten the house and the lie of some of the rooms. But the garden - every inch of it - was perfectly familiar.’

Finished my first song


Victor Trump,

‘Test over. England a glorious game. Deserved to win. Wicket bad. Catches missed. Great excitement. Glad Tests all over . . .’

Ran about all day


Nikolay Nikolayevich Punin,

‘How I hate England. I hate it with an animal hatred.’

I love the masses


Richard E. Byrd,

‘Good weather has at last come. The NA-2 & 3 are out of commission. Bennett and I are going tonight for the blessed old navy. We must make a showing for her. Everything went wrong today. NA-1 lost cowling overboard. NA-2 went down by nose. Almost lost her. NA-3 nearly sunk by icebergs and injured lower wing on raft.

Later. MacMillan wouldn’t let me go. He seems to have given up. MacMillan seems to be in [a] great hurry to pack up and go back. Wonder what is in his mind.’

Flying over the Poles


Henry Fountain Ashurst,

‘It is, I suppose, a human tendency to try to advance one’s self, and even eminent philosophers seem to desire a social order fitted to the skills and qualities they possess. Plato’s preference was for a rule by the philosophers; Jefferson, a man of virtue and learning, favored a government by the virtuous and learned. The unlearned, incompetent ones, would seek equality by reducing all to mediocrity.

It is becoming obvious as the years roll on that I and the other diarists who are so “truthful” in telling tales about others rarely, if ever, write of our own mean, petty, and contemptible doings but seldom omit recording our own generous and virtuous actions. My opponents derisively say that I have flattered Neptune out of his trident yet Senator J. Hamilton Lewis recently said to me, “Why, dear Prince Hal, you have by making immaterial concessions to human vanity, stimulated many persons into worthy action.”

Be that as it may, it is nobler to be truthful and resolute than to be eloquent, lubricous, and socially and politically eligible. I have been tardy in divining that no matter how meagre, obscure, and indigent a particular human life may be, romance inheres in that life.

To my misfortune, from my earliest sentience, I accepted existence as a futility more honorably endured by complaisance than by resentment; and my failure accurately to appraise and evaluate life was a ghastly mistake, difficult of correction now. I have been a laggard in recognizing the justice of nature and the dignity of mankind. In order to live a worthwhile life, indeed, in order to enjoy even a moderate measure of graceful and felicitous existence, it is requisite that one shall approach life realizing that the universe is operated according to “a good and great plan” and that in harmony with this plan mankind, endowed with reason and conscience, may direct his affairs beneficially if his goal be justice and righteousness. To achieve any durable success one must have a fixed and settled realization that demonstrable truths do exist and that mankind is capable of applying these truths to this life.’

A kindly and witty diarist


Hideki Tōjō,
prime minister

‘We now have to see our country surrender to the enemy without demonstrating our power up to 120 percent’; and, ‘we are now on a course for a humiliating peace, or rather a humiliating surrender.’ And here’s another extract: ‘Now that the diplomatic steps have been taken after the emperor’s judgment [for surrender], I have decided to refrain from making any comments about it, though I have a separate view.’

Tōjō’s resistance to surrender


Jack Ward Thomas,
scientist and teacher

‘In keeping with Friday the 13th, my mail contained the paperwork from the timber industry lawyers: the secretaries of Agriculture and Interior and I and the entire FEMAT are being sued. The basis of the suit is that FEMAT operations were conducted in a manner not in compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The brief was filled with page after page demanding documents and affidavits, and question after question concerning how FEMAT operated.

Well, I will deal with that when the time comes. The White House team set the rules and FEMAT did the technical work. I have learned to simply tell the truth in the briefest possible manner and then let the lawyers fight it out and the judges rule.

There are moments, however, when I sit at my desk answering interrogatories and sit hour after hour being deposed by lawyers and sit on the witness stand in court trying to tell the truth while not being discredited by the legal attack dogs - at such times it is sometimes difficult to remember that somewhere there are biologists in denim pants and work boots doing fieldwork far from the world of lawyers in their three-piece suits, shiny black shoes, crisply ironed white shirts, and fresh haircuts. I feel terribly out of place in this world - and the worst part is, they know it. A remark came back to me that one of the industry lawyers made. He said I reminded him of a grizzly bear bayed by dogs: angry, puzzled, and frightened.

Now when I am at the mercy of the lawyers, I keep the image of the cornered grizz’ in mind, knowing that the smooth Harvard lawyer has never seen a bear swat the life out of a dog with one sweep of a paw. The thing about bear baiting is that sometimes you get the bear, but sometimes the bear gets you!’

A bear bayed by dogs


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And so made significant . . .
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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.