And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

31 August

1908
John Churton Collins,
writer and literary critic

‘Fearful depression, sensation that I was worn out mentally, fearfully sleepy. What will become of my children if I get worse?’

I thought I was out of the woods

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1848
Ford Madox Brown,
artist

‘Set to work about 12 till 2 & from 3 till 4 at the architecture. Rosetti called with Hunt, a clever young man.’

The might of genius

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1891
William Grant Stairs,
explorer

‘Six and a half hours of march to cover fifteen miles. We camp amidst the brush, tired beyond description and without water. Tomorrow we shall reach water after a two and a half hour march, but the following day there is a wasteland of fifteen miles to Rubuga. [. . .]

As we approach Tabora I fear increasingly the desertions of more of my men. These long marches without water terrify them and I sense that they would prefer to desert than to continue in such conditions. . . The hardships and the weariness cause me such endless cares. . . that I have become as thin as a rail and my cheekbones stand out in my face.’

Marches without water

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1911
Jean Sibelius,
composer

‘Don’t give in to tobacco or alcohol. Better to write rubbish in your “diary”. Confide your miseries to paper. In the long run it’s better so! Yes - in the long run.’

An inner confession

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1916
Thomas Cobden-Sanderson,
craftsman

‘The Doves Press type was designed after that of Jensen; this evening I began its destruction. I threw three pages into the Thames from Hammersmith Bridge. I had gone for a stroll on the Mall, when it occurred to me that it was a suitable night and time; so I went indoors, and taking first one page and then two, succeeded in destroying three. I will now go on till I have destroyed the whole of it.’

Innumerable ripples; countless diamonds

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1918
Michael Macdonagh,
journalist

‘The London police, Metropolitain and City, are on strike. About 14,000 constables “came out” last night! Not a single policeman is on beat duty, and only a few on point duty controlling traffic! This is the amazing news of the day. The incredible, the inconceivable, the fantastic, certainly the unparalleled, has happened. Yet London, on the whole, is taking it quietly, so thin has our sense of surprise and astonishment been worn by the shocks of four years of war. [. . .] The men have gone on strike for three things - higher pay to meet the increased cost of living; official recognition of their Union; reinstatement of a constable who has been dismissed for this activity as an organiser of the Union. [. . .]

Drivers were free to go as they pleased, [. . .] There was an occasional tangle of omnibuses, taxicabs, motor-cars, carts and drays, but it quickly unwound itself, so desirous did every driver appear to be to give way to his fellows rather than to push ahead himself.

The centre of interest was Downing Street, where, at No 10, Lloyd George, the Prime Minister, was closeted with the leaders of the strike, endeavouring to reach a settlement. Many thousands of constables, all in civilian clothes, were assembled in Parliament Street and Whitehall awaiting the result. They had marched four abreast form the different police divisions. The traffic held itself up to let them pass. [. . .] In the long wait for the result of the conference, the temper of the crowd, strikers and spectators alike, was rising in antagonism. Not even the singing of popular songs by a striker with a fine voice, who was perched on the garden wall of 10 Downing Street, and the selection of airs played by two pipers of the Police Union were altogether successful in soothing this bad temper. [. . .]

The strike lasted just twenty-fours hours [Lloyd George agreed an increase in pay, and the reinstatement of the constable]. A queer business altogether. But it should have a lasting place in the social annals of the country for one reason, if no other - the proof it afforded of London’s ingrained respect for order and decorum. An outbreak of lawlessness had been feared. Not even a single shop was pillaged.’

The drama of London in WWI

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1937
Zorina Gray
, actress

‘Sat around again and filmed the ending of Juliet, where I had to execute sixteen fouettés six times from different angles - that makes ninety-six fouettés. Afterward my knees felt like macaroni.’

My knees felt like macaroni

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1940
Marielle Bennett,
actor

‘Hear that Kilburn has been bombed. Stay in for first warning. I set off to meet a friend, but first took some old silver to a place where they buy metal for Spitfires, at first the man only offered me 2/3, I protested as it was 4 pieces. [. . .] Eventually we compromised and I took 9/-. I believe he would have gone to 10/- but I did not persuade him. He said he would lose over the deal. I bet he does!! He said he was going to close the shop next week as he does not like the raids and he thinks they are going on indefinitely. He was a lively old man and I liked him. he told me to get out of Hampstead on account of the Jewish refugees as Hitler would be after them. [. . .]

Met my best friend - an actress is who now married and just about to give birth. I am to be the godmother. We intended to go to coffee and then a doctor in Queen Anne’s Street, but we had just met when the warning went, as were in Evans, we sheltered there. Very comfortable. The first shelter I’ve been in. My friend varnished her nails most of the time [. . .]

Went to the Hollyrood and had two lagers. Telephoned another friend and then the sirens sounded again. We could not get back into the pub so we chased along Oxford Street to the Horseshoe where we went down the dive and had another and waited for the all clear. I went to the lavatory then, to find the attendant, a woman about 50, in an uproar. “Dirty swine, everyone ought to be killed, they are not fit to live. We ought to have killed them after the last war. Inhuman devils.” ’

The cost of stockings

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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, 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.