And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

19 August

Albrecht Dürer,

‘On the Sunday after our dear Lady’s Assumption I saw the great 19 Aug. Procession from the Church of our Lady at Antwerp, when the whole town of every craft and rank was assembled, each dressed in his best according to his rank. And all ranks and guilds had their signs, by which they might be known. In the intervals great costly pole-candles were borne, and their long old Frankish trumpets of silver. There were also in the German fashion many pipers and drummers. All the instruments were loudly and noisily blown and beaten.

I saw the Procession pass along the street, the people being arranged in rows, each man some distance from his neighbour, but the rows close one behind another. There were the Goldsmiths, the Painters, the Masons, the Broderers, the Sculptors, the Joiners, the Carpenters, the Sailors, the Fishermen, the Butchers, the Leatherers, the Clothmakers, the Bakers, the Tailors, the Cordwainers -indeed workmen of all kinds, and many craftsmen and dealers who work for their livelihood. Likewise the shopkeepers and merchants and their assistants of all kinds were there. After these came the shooters with guns, bows, and crossbows and the horsemen and foot-soldiers also. Then followed the watch of the Lords Magistrates. Then came a fine troop all in red, nobly and splendidly clad. Before them however went all the religious Orders and the members of some Foundations very devoutly, all in their different robes.

A very large company of widows also took part in this procession. They support themselves with their own hands and observe a special rule. They were all dressed from head to foot in white linen garments, made expressly for the occasion, very sorrowful to see. Among them I saw some very stately persons. Last of all came the Chapter of our Lady’s Church with all their clergy, scholars, and treasurers. Twenty persons bore the image of the Virgin Mary with the Lord Jesus, adorned in the costliest manner, to the honour of the Lord God.

In this Procession very many delightful things were shown, most splendidly got up. Waggons were drawn along with masques upon ships and other structures. Behind them came the company of the Prophets in their order and scenes from the New Testament, such as the Annunciation, the Three Holy Kings riding on great camels and on other rare beasts, very well arranged; also how our Lady fled to Egypt - very devout - and many other things, which for shortness I omit. At the end came a great Dragon which St Margaret and her maidens led by a girdle; she was especially beautiful, behind her came St George with his squire, a very goodly knight in armour. In this host also rode boys and maidens most finely and splendidly dressed in the costumes of many lands, representing various Saints. From beginning to end the Procession lasted more than two hours before it was gone past our house. And so many things were there that I could never write them all in a book, so I let it well alone.’

Carefully in oils


Ezra Stiles,

‘This Afternoon my Wife sat to Mr King for her Picture. Mr Ellis of Compton here. He told me a story of an Event formerly on the Cape, I think at Barnstable. Two Brethren of the Chh had unhappily got into a Lawsuit, & in prosecuting it had become guilty of such Indiscretions & broken peace, as that it came into the Chh - & seemed impossible to reconcile. Two other Brethren of that or another Chh observing it, marvelled that such irreconcileable Enmity should arise among Christs Disciples for a Lawsuit - & were confident they could go to Law & not quarrel. They make the wicked Attempt: & for sake of Trial commenced a Lawsuit one with another. But they soon embroiled their Spirits, and the Thing proceded & ended in total Breach of Friendship and most irreconcileable Enmity. Dangerous to tempt Satan, & try our own strength!’

Great grief and distress


Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville,
civil servant

‘I went to Brighton on Saturday to see the Duke [of York - George IV’s brother and heir presumptive at the time]; returned to-day. The Pavilion is finished. The King has had a subterranean passage made from the house to the stables, which is said to have cost 3,000l or 5,000l; I forget which. There is also a bath in his apartment, with pipes to conduct water from the sea; these pipes cost 600l. The King has not taken a sea bath for sixteen years.’

The King’s bathing habits


William Gladstone,
prime minister

‘Remained in bed. Read Goethe and translated a few lines. Also Beauties of Shakespere. In the evening it blew: very ill though in bed. Could not help admiring the crests of the waves even as I stood at cabin window.’

An account book of time


Lester Frank Ward,
botanist and sociologist

‘Hearing mention of an Episcopal meeting at six o’clock in the evening I decided to attend it. After having finished a letter I went to Sunday School and finally to the girl’s, taking her a music book. I talked with her for an hour or two, and she entertained me wonderfully - when I returned and got something to eat, I went to church.

Mr Douglas, the minister, after having gone through all the ceremonies which belong to this church (which were, incidentally, very interesting to me), preached a very practical and profound sermon. The girl was there, and as I passed her on the stairs which lead to the gallery I saw her standing on the steps. It was a very awkward manoeuver to approach her and ask for her company to another service.

But I accomplished it casually, and she could not refuse. We went at once to another church, chatting and enjoying ourselves marvellously. She fascinated me. I remembered my previous love. What a charming girl. If I could once more press my lips on hers and draw from them my soul’s satisfaction! We returned in the evening talking all the time but more gravely than before. We arrived at the door, I entered with her, she lit a lamp and we sat down together talking, but I could not keep myself from feasting my eyes ardently and with intensity on the object of beauty and attraction at my side. Girl, I thought, if you were true to me what a happy man I should be! I took the hand which I loved, and looked at it. We spoke little more from that moment, while I looked steadily at her face and was conquered.

I could no longer keep my place. Leaning forward I received her sweet and tender form in my arms and in an instant her face was covered with kisses. What a sublime scene! Who could have words to express my emotions?

And there we bathed ourselves in the passion of love until the crowing of cocks announced it was day.’

Young Ward’s passion


Henry D. Thoreau,
philosopher and scientist

‘Examine now more at length that smooth, turnip-scented brassica which is a pest in some grain-fields. Formerly in Stow’s land; this year in Warren’s, on the Walden road. To-day I see it in Minot Pratt’s, with the wild radish, which is a paler yellow and a rougher plant. I thought it before the B. campestris, but Persoon puts that under brassicas with siliquis tetraedris, which this is not, but, for aught that appears, it agrees with his B. Napus, closely allied, i. e. wild rape. Elliot speaks of this as introduced here. Vide Patent Office Report for 1853 and “Vegetable Kingdom,” page 179. The B. campestris also is called rape.

Leersia (cut-grass) abundantly out, apparently several days.’

Cows in the river


John Dearman Birchall,

‘Ann has a letter giving account of poor Cobb’s lamentable suicide in the Barnsley Canal. She had first tried to be run over on the rails. Our cooks have not been fortunate. Mrs Dyson an incurable; Jane died from cancer and now Mrs Cobb committing suicide.’

The tricycle diaries


Ima Hogg,

‘Monday. Munich. Hotel Linfelder.

Out looking - got lost - having left my dear old Baedecker somewhere - reached hotel 3:30 P.M. tired hot & hungry. . .’

First Lady of Texas


Northrop Frye,

‘Today the news was all about the Dieppe raid, & the Russian front also got a front-page splash. The fact that the Chinese stormed & captured Wenchow, a city of 100,000 on the coast, was recorded in a tiny box in the second section. I simply cannot understand this assumption that the Chinese front is of no importance or interest. It’s all the sillier when one realizes that the current of world history is now going through Asia & that Europe has ceased to be of any organic historical significance. China will probably have the next century pretty well to itself as far as culture, & perhaps even civilization, are concerned.’

Buggering around aimlessly


Obafemi Awolowo,

‘I affirm that by the grace of God, the AG will win 200 seats at the federal elections, I also affirm that I Chief Awolowo will be the Prime Minister of Nigeria. In the return for this privilege, I solemnly aver and promise in the presence of God that I will strive and do my utmost best for the entire people of Nigeria irrespective of their tribe, religion, political affiliation and ensure individual freedom, human dignity and cultural progress, for Jesus says: whatever we ask for, we shall have it; I believe the AG will win 200 seats and 1 will become the prime minister of Nigeria. I affirm that by the grace of God, the AG will win 200 seats. I also affirm that I Chief Awolowo will be the prime minister of Nigeria at the conclusion of the election.

As prime minister of Nigeria, I will strive to ensure the rule of law; happiness and spiritual well being of the people of Nigeria. I therefore believe firmly that the AG will win 200 seats: I thank God for granting my desire.’

Best president Nigeria never had


Arthur C. Clarke,

‘Writing all day. Two thousand words exploring Jupiter’s satellites. Dull work.’

Dreamed I was a robot


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And so made significant . . .
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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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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.