And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

25 August

Samuel Pepys,
civil servant

‘It seems this Lord Mayor begins again an old custome, that upon the three first days of Bartholomew Fayre, the first, there is a match of wrestling, which was done, and the Lord Mayor there and Aldermen in Moorefields yesterday: to-day, shooting: and to-morrow, hunting. And this officer of course is to perform this ceremony of riding through the city, I think to proclaim or challenge any to shoot. It seems that the people of the fayre cry out upon it as a great hindrance to them.’

In celebration of Pepys


John Marrett,

‘Mrs M dangerously Sick of a Fever.’

Ye largest Funeral


John Dearman Birchall,

‘Garden Party at Hardwicke 3.30 - 7. A smaller party than yesterday. Mr Baker was walking about and seemed very cheerful. The garden looked in nice order; but the grass plot much cracked from the unusual drought which has prevailed for at least a couple of months.’

The tricycle diaries


Thomas Cobden-Sanderson,

‘I went the other night to a concert at Queen’s Hall. It was a Promenade Concert, and a Wagner night. The Hall was packed. To get in I had to go to the end of a long queue extending round the building. I paid 2s., and got a seat in the balcony. The music was very loud, and filled the Hall like a great sea, and beat up into our ears as the sea does into the caves and hollows of the shore. [. . .]

Having resolved to close the Bindery next year, it seems to follow as a matter of course that I should close the Press also. But whereas I seemed to come naturally, after twenty-five years, to the former resolve, to come to the latter seemed to be against nature, there are so many great books to print and so few to bind.’

Innumerable ripples; countless diamonds


Sergei Prokofiev,

‘I was in town. The copyist, scoundrel that he is, having copied 200 pages of score now refuses to do more on the grounds of ill health and tired eyes. It’s true he was cheap, at 25 cents a page. He said that when he recovers he will be able to resume, but at 60 cents a page. I said I would be happy to pay 80, but not to him. Still, it is not a good situation: I have to deliver it by 1 September and there are 50 pages still to do. I telephone Altschuler to see if he could suggest another copyist, but Altschuler has not paid his telephone bill and I could not get through to his number.

Stella and I went out of town for dinner. She is leaving on 15 September and since we have become reconciled to this she has been nicer and more loving.’

Finishing Three Oranges


Richard E. Byrd,

‘Captain doesn’t know where we are. So won’t send a radio tonight. Reached Conical Rock finally. Laying behind here on account bad weather.’

Flying over the Poles


Robert Earl Henri,

‘The big movement of the whole canvas should so possess one that the change from part to part, from flesh to collar to coat to shirt or trousers should be such that, however brilliant or sharp the change of color or texture might be in these, there would be no arrest in the observer’s mind. He should be conscious of these changes, conscious of beauty in them, conscious that they are right, but his sense should be of the life that flows beneath these superficial things.’

‘Work quickly. Don’t stop for anything but the essential. (A dilatory worker has too much time to see things of little importance.) Make the draperies move, don’t let them stop. Keep the flow going. Don’t have islands of “things.” The “things,” however wonderfully done, are just what bring a picture down to the commonplace. I never really had any ambition to paint “things.’ It’s the spirit of the thing that counts.’

Make the draperies move


Aleksander Rodchenko,

‘The most interesting books are those written not by writers but by people who have experienced and seen a great deal and who feel acutely. Moreover, they love, hate, and want a lot. . . Everyone who feels he thinks differently should definitely write. Write everything down and you will be better than the aristocrats of the spirit, who invent things in studies.

History will ask what you, “the non-honored” did and thought.

We don’t agree with the depicters, those like Gladkov, et al. Maybe it was all invented, spiced up with other people’s accomplishments from books, newspapers, and magazines.’

Photos to surprise and amaze


Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit,

‘Last night was very sultry and hot, but the yard was bathed in silver light all night. It is still hot and very muggy this morning and we seem to be in for a bad day. My head has ached ever since I got up and the throbbing is increasing inspite of the Aspro that I have taken. It is not going to be a very cheerful day for me, I’m afraid!’

Mrs Indira is here


Henry Louis Mencken,

‘I went to Washington today to see Col. Livingston Watrous of the Army, deputy director of the Special Service Division. This division is in charge of all indoctrination work, and publishes a great variety of bulletins, papers, pamphlets and books for the soldiers. I was interested especially in its series of pamphlets on the countries that American troops are now quartered in, most of them containing sections on the local languages. Those for Australia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland and Great Britain contain vocabularies of words differing in American and English. Watrous received me very politely, showed me many of the documents his men are preparing, and introduced me to some of his subordinates. He has very large quarters and a staff running to hundreds of officers and civilians. On his desk was a copy of “Heliogabalus.” He told me that he often re-read it, and asked me to autograph it, which I did.

His office is in the famous Pentagon Building at Arlington, which I saw for the first time. After the taxicab comes into sight of it there is a good mile of weaving through the maze of roads which surround it. The track doubles back on itself several times. Once inside, the visitor has to present himself at a reception desk, where very polite girls hear his business. Mine telephoned to Watrous, and then informed me that a guide would be sent down to show me to his office. She warned me that it might take the guide 15 minutes to get to the reception desk. Within ten minutes a young colored girl showed up, and I followed her along half a mile of corridors. I had been given a badge at the reception desk and had to show it when I entered the building proper. On my return I had to show it again, and also a pass that Watrous had given me, covering the pamphlets his secretary had wrapped up for me.

The Pentagon Building is so huge that it is downright comic. Also, it is extraordinarily ugly. It cost, so I have heard, more than $100,000,000, and houses nearly 100,000 jobholders. The surrounding grounds, broken up by the winding roads, are even more hideous than the building.’

Mencken’s disagreeable character


Jean Guéhenno,

‘Yesterday evening around 9:00 they were still building barricades on Boulevard Sérurier. They were chopping down the plane trees at the street corners. I came back home around ten. Friends call me, saying they can see huge fireworks over the Hotel de Ville, with red and blue rockets answering them in the south and west. It was the signal. The first tanks of Leclerc’s army had just rolled up to Notre-Dame. And then all the bells of all the churches rang in the night, drowning out the rumbling of the big guns.

France has lost her soul


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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.