And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

22 August

Gilles de Gouberville,

‘As I was with my mowers, Chandeleur’s wife passed, coming here. She told me of the sorrow and trouble she had had over the body of her husband; she spent the night beside him where he fell, because the neighbors did not dare help her through fear of Le Parmentier and his son.’

I distrust the miller


Edmund Harrold,

‘I worked al[l] day till 9 at night, yn I fetched my wife from her m[aste]r, and father[-inlaw] [Joseph] Bancrofts. Came home about ½ hour past 11. Dr Redford got her to bed and me alone gave a brides possit amongst ye company in ye house.’

Did wife 2 tymes


John Adams,

‘Yesterday I compleated a Contract with Mr. Putnam, to study Law under his Inspection for two years. I ought to begin with a Resolution to oblige and please him and his Lady in a particular Manner. I ought to endeavour to oblige and please every Body, but them in particular. Necessity drove me to this Determination, but my Inclination I think was to preach. However that would not do. But I set out with firm Resolutions I think never to commit any meanness or injustice in the Practice of Law. The Study and Practice of Law, I am sure does not dissolve the obligations of morality or of Religion. And altho the Reason of my quitting Divinity was my Opinion concerning some disputed points, I hope I shall not give Reason of offence to any in that Profession by imprudent Warmth.’

A spirit to our honour


Louis David Riel,

‘Death destroys the trees around me. She takes her victims from among my livestock. Even if I sacrifice one of the animals from my flocks, I become an instrument of death.

The language of death is eloquent. It is a language expressed in facts, not figures of speech. The birds of the air are subject to the laws of mortality. The fish hiding in the fathomless depths of the oceans are not concealed from death.

Man, whom God has placed at the head of creation, will obey death because he has disobeyed his Creator. Death! It is sin which has invited you into the world. You did not keep us waiting; it was not long after the invitation that you made your appearance. You are our guest. You deserve a kind and warm reception, for you only come to us after being summoned. Man has made a deliberate choice between immortality and mortality; and in exercising his freedom, he has consented to be your servant. Death, you have power over him because he has chosen you to be his mistress; it is fair that you should be obeyed. I am getting ready to receive you whenever it pleases God to send you to me. For imperious as you are, Death, you are subject to a power which must be acknowledged and obeyed - the absolute power of the One who, being life itself, has nothing which belongs to you; the sovereign power of the all-loving God without whose permission you cannot approach me.’

Canada’s rebel hero


Beatrix Potter,

‘Very hot. Went to Mrs. McIntosh’s to try and photograph Charlie Lumm’s fox at Calley, but with very little advantage except that I was touched with the kindness of Mrs. McIntosh. She let the pony stand in their stall, gave me a glass of milk, and tramped up the wood with me to the Under-keeper’s cottage.

The wood is very beautiful at the bottom of Craigie-barns, such tall Scotch firs, and the Game keeper’s cottage with its bright old-fashioned flowers and a row of bee hives. The fox proved a tyke, tearing round and round the tree, in the absence of Charlie Lumm, but as things turned out, it did not signify.

Coming down we passed Eel Stew, with high post railings where her Grace’s supply of eels are preserved, having been trapped in the Lochs. Her Grace will have two or three cooked for supper every evening almost, when she is at home, at which information I was much amazed.’

Beatrix and Benjamin


Käthe Kollwitz,

‘Stagnation in my work.

When I feel so parched, I almost long for the sorrow again. And then when it comes back I feel it stripping me physically of all the strength I need for work.

Made a drawing: the mother letting her dead son slide into her arms. I might make a hundred such drawings and yet I do not get any closer to him. I am seeking him. As if I had to find him in the work. And yet everything I can do is so childishly feeble and inadequate. I feel obscurely that I could throw off this inadequacy, that Peter is somewhere in the work and I might find him. And at the same time I have the feeling that I can no longer do it. I am too shattered, weakened, drained by tears. I am like the writer in Thomas Mann: he can only write, but he has not sufficient strength to live what is written. It is the other way round with me. I no longer have the strength to form what has been lived. A genius and a Mann could do it. I probably cannot.

For work, one must be hard and thrust outside oneself what one has lived through. As soon as I begin to do that, I again feel myself a mother who will not give up her sorrow. Sometimes it all becomes so terribly difficult.

Hoyer has answered my letter. His reply is very kind. He too calls me Mother. But that doesn’t bother me. Now all three of them call me that, Hans Koch, Noll and Hoyer. At first I felt alarm, then happiness, and now diffidence -wondering what I can give them. I can really be a mother only to my own.

I suppose it is conceivable to broaden out so that one can feel great love for other children than one’s own, but again it is the same as in my work: I feel that I cannot. I am not broad enough for that. My strength is insufficient.’

Kollwitz’s weavers


Aleister Crowley,
writer and priest

‘Object: To become the greatest of all the Magi. Operation of long-since-unheard-of vehemence. Elixir of miraculous strength and sweetness. Mental concentration, Samadhic in intensity.’

Do what thou wilt


Marya Zaturenska,

‘The immensity and inhuman beauty of the mountains and the scraggly Velasquez-like landscape. Austere - half desert, half treeless plain, closed in by mountains.

Illness - the same pain, a continual pressure behind the eyes. Not a day spent without pain. The doctors say nonchalantly that it is not serious - that everything will clear up - but months pass, all is the same, and the world grows terrifying seen with eyes that are strange to me.’

Obsessed by new poems


Hanna Lévy-Hass,

‘The very limited space and the even more limited possibilities of keeping it clean - it’s enough to push anyone to the brink. Rainy days transform the entire space into a mud pit, which farther increases the overall level of filth as well as the vermin. And it’s all accompanied by interminable squabbles systematically encouraged by the common enemy, the Nazi. It’s only the first month and already, depressed, we can foresee endless misery.

I should have gone “up there,” into the mountains, to be with them [the Yugoslav partisans]. Definitely. Of course, there too, over time, you would have noticed some conflicts, some petty disagreements, some minor inconsistencies in some people, a lack of conviction or principles in others ... and it would have been even more painful, more bitter, perhaps. But at least you would feel like a human being, free to think, to express yourself, to act. And you would be surrounded by human beings, by real men, who say human things to you, men who, today, are the only ones who deserve respect and whose words and deeds matter. Only “up there” could I know my reason for being, my true worth, and what I am truly capable of contributing, or not contributing.

Only there does suffering have meaning. Only there do faults become more obvious and easier to correct. Only there does man learn to know himself and to devote himself. And to the extent that, there too, the verdict would indicate that I am a failure ... It would only be for the better. Everything would be clearer: the only thing left for you now is to drop, like an overripe fruit that decomposes of its own accord. Why not? Such is the world. But I suspect vaguely, yet deep within me, that once “up there,” I would not necessarily have been destined to total ruin.

Maybe it’s precisely this dilemma that landed me here in this wretched camp; it’s been tormenting me for some time. On the other hand, because of it many things within me and in others have been clarified. And today I can state without fear of inaccuracy that I was made - if not absolutely then decisively - to be there with them, rather than here. In a sense, this evolution hasn’t been totally worthless to me: I came out of it hardened in my convictions, having gotten to know the enemy better and having learned more thoroughly what we must fight in the future. The knowledge acquired was worth it.’

To feel like a human being


James Evershed Agate,

‘Lunch with Bertie van Thai at the Savoy, where a really extraordinary coincidence happens. (First let me say that Bertie’s life at the Food Office is one unbroken sea of milk troubles. Either London is drowning in milk and there are no bottles to put it in, or there is an avalanche of bottles and no milk.) Now for the coincidence. At the next table is Kay Hammond with her little boy. Gathering that he is fond of cricket, I beckon him over and tell him how I once bowled out W. G. Grace. Whereupon John Clements leans across and says, “This is unbelievable. In the lounge before lunch I was telling John how at a public dinner my father heard W. G. say that on the sands at Blackpool he had been bowled first ball by a little boy of seven whose name he never knew!” ’

Not careless jottings


Tina Brown,

‘So long between entries. Have had the whole family to stay at Quogue. Heaven having the cousins here for George.

When not with the kids have been glued to CNN, watching the developments in the crisis in the Gulf since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He's such a preposterous figure, with the backward beret and huge chimney-sweep mustache, but clearly much more dangerous than anyone gave him credit for. No one took Hitler seriously either. It seems to be the hallmark of the most dangerous dictators that no one considers them a threat until too late.

The September issue is a news storm with the Trump piece and the Hitler speeches revelation. Happily, Trump trashed us to Barbara Walters on her show, and that spun another column from Liz Smith.’

Tina Brown’s Vanity Fair


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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.

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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.