And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

17 August

1634
William Whiteway,
politician

‘Two men being at bowles near to Bridport on a Sunday, one beat out his fellowes braines with a bowle.’

The towne took on fire

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1852
Polly Lavinia Crandall Coon,
teacher

‘Our Co commenced crossing - having stretched a rope across the river & coupled two wagon boxes together, towed over the cattle first & then carried our wagons, luggage & people. We got over quite early with the sick ones in order to make them as comfortable as possible.’

We hope for better times

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1854
Ford Madox Brown,
artist

‘Rose at 1/4 before nine - garden after breakfast. Shower Bath before work. To work by 11 till one at the view of Windermere. Dined, to work again by 2 till near six worked at sky & all over. Tea & then for a walk with Emma. An umbrella each for a threatening storm which caught us sure as we returned. This even I intended drawing but instead reflected on alterations made in the picture of Christ & Peter which I think of sending to Paris with the Chaucer, if the English Committee [of the Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1855] accept it (6 hours). The Christ in its present state I consider to be failure - too much melodramatic sentiment not sufficient dignity and simplicity of pose. What to do with it however I scarce know. To suite the public taste however it should be clothed! to suit my own, not - but then the action suits me not to alter which would be more trouble than to cloath the figure. Auriole they must all have. The St John is all right. The Peter would be perfect if the carnation were redder & deeper in tint & the cloak a better green, also a bit of the right arm should be shown; but how? Judas requires a fresh head of hair - his present one having been dabbed in from feeling in the last hurry of sending in. Memo, his garment to be a paler yellow. Four of the other apostles require more religious feeling which must be done. William & Gabriel Rossetti in particular require veneration to be added to them. The table cloath will require alteration & the tiles of the floor. Health & spirits tolerable to day, nerves quiet.’

The Last of England

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1867
Gerard Manley Hopkins,
poet

‘West wind, which I heard someone describe as ‘lumpy and rolling heavy’, with a little rain on it; otherwise fine; near sunset drifts of small graceful white-rose and scaly clouds.’

Sunset of rosy juices

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1868
Gerard Manley Hopkins,
poet

‘Dark, soft, and wet.’

Sunset of rosy juices

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1910
Wilfrid Scawen Blunt,
writer and diplomat

‘My birthday of seventy, which I am spending at Clouds [a country house designed by Philip Webb and built 25 or so years earlier for the Wyndhams, in Wiltshire, to whom Blunt was related], a long and delightful day; also and on this I pride myself, I was able with my cup and ball to catch it on the point nine times out of twelve, which shows that my eyesight is not failing. In the evening we had the traditional birthday cake with the children, lighting it up with seventy wax matches. Guy’s boys amuse me. George, a boy of sixteen, still at Wellington School, but has grown a slight moustache and affects the way of a young man. He is very good-looking, and spends most of his time with the servants in the pantry and the housekeeper’s room, where he talks nonsense to the maids and helps footmen to clean the knives, smoking a briar pipe with twist tobacco, the most horrible stuff. Upstairs he has a fine assurance with pronounced opinions, as a man of the world. He is to go into the Foreign Office, and seems to have an amusing career before him. Dick, the younger, is of a strict scaramouch type, cleverer but less good-looking. [Dick Wyndham was the father of Joan Wyndham, a noted 20th century diarist who died recently in 2007]. Olivia is an audaciously pretty girl of thirteen, also with a career of pleasure before her, ready for all possible wickedness in a wicked world. They spent the day making a grand pic-nic with the servants and governesses to Pertwood on the Downs, where they had sack and three-legged races and all sorts of boisterous fun, of which Dick, who dined at table, gave us a naive account.’

Seventy wax matches

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1910
Jean Sibelius,
composer

‘Crossed out the whole of the development. More beauty, and more real music. Not just scoring or crescendos but stereotyped writing. Now I have to speed up. Now or never!’

An inner confession

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1937
William Lyon Mackenzie King,
prime minister

‘The Coronation pictures were followed by Shirley Temple in Wee Willie Winkle - what I saw of the child rather annoyed than pleased me, a precociousness & forwardness, etc. however, as the play went on she ‘improved’ - there were bits that were quite lovely - a fine little actress, - but one feels it is a mistake so to raise children.’

A real companion and friend

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1990
Derek Jarman,
director and artist

‘Sunlit cool autumnal day. Writing this diary on my way to St Mary’s in a taxi that cruises down Oxford Street alongside a lovely lad on a bike. Today London is a joy.’

Tired of the cinema

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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, usually several every week. The blog has been publishing for over five years, and is the secondary source for the diary extracts in this online anthology.