And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

4 August

Richard Rogers,

‘I cannot yet setle my selfe to my study, but through unfitnes of mind, weaknes of body, and partly discontinueing of diligenc thereat am holden back, and in every kinde of it so behinde hande, more then some yeares agone, that I am much discouraged. I doe not see, but that if it pleased the lorde to graunt me that benefite I were many waves to count mine estat good above many men. For some recovery of strength and freedome this way I doe purpose to intreat the lorde more specially this day, hopeing for blessing not onely in that behalf but also against some corruption which I see break foorth by occasions, although it seme not so before trials come, as to be soone stirred when any thing goeth otherwise with me then I woulde: also wandring and fonde desires, though not strongue, and sometime too longe dwellinges in them, which I know to be condemned by the law. Further, though I doe not much feele my self disquieted about the worlde nor hurtful to any, yet I am not so profitable and painfull through love to procure the good of others as I have been, though I study litle. But most occupied about an entring in to it, and heavy for that I attaine not to it. For in deed when I obteine grace that way and gather strenghth of matter by reading I am the fitter after to be ether in company with others with doinge good or to be solitary by my self with comfort. I pray god send me frut of my request herein.’

Diverse corners of my heart


John Knox,

‘The heat of the dog-days in this country is excessive, with close, suffocating airs; this evening we had the most violent thunder and lightning that ever I saw and heard; even the inhabitants express much surprise at it; and the flashes had the greatest variety of awful beauties, and choice of colours, that the most lively imagination can conceive; this was succeeded by five hours constant, heavy rain, with remarkable large drops.’

Killed and scalped


James Boswell,

‘This is now my last day in London before I set out upon my travels, and makes a very important period in my journal. Let me recollect my life since this journal began. Has it not passed like a dream? Yes, but I have been attaining a knowledge of the world. I came to town to go into the Guards. How different is my scheme now! I am upon a less pleasurable but a more rational and lasting plan. Let me pursue it with steadiness and I may be a man of dignity. My mind is strangely agitated. I am happy to think of going upon my travels and seeing the diversity of foreign parts; and yet my feeble mind shrinks somewhat at the idea of leaving Britain in so very short a time from the moment in which I now make this remark. How strange must I feel myself in foreign parts. My mind too is gloomy and dejected at the thoughts of leaving London, where I am so comfortably situated and where I have enjoyed most happiness. However, I shall be the happier for being abroad, as long as I live. Let me be manly. Let me commit myself to the care of my merciful creator.’

Young Boswell in London


Francis Lieber,
philosopher and teacher

‘Swam in the swimming-school with Mr. Audubon, the ornithologist, who has just returned from Florida, where he shot birds and painted for his large work. He discovered many new birds, and is now going to the Bay of Fundy, whence an English revenue cutter will take him to Labrador. On these expeditions he lives like a savage, shooting and fishing, and immediately painting whatever new bird he meets with. This must necessarily produce a valuable work. Doctor Spurzheim is staying at our boarding-house in Boston; he has many very correct ideas. . .’

Lieber’s Life and Letters


Elizabeth Gaskell,

‘It seems a very long time since I have written anything about my little darling, and I feel as if I had been negligent about it, only it so difficult to know when to begin or when to stop when talking thinking or writing about her. [. . .]

How all of a woman’s life, at least so it seems to me now, ought to have a reference to the period when she will be fulfilling one of her greatest & highest duties, those of a mother. I feel myself so unknowing, so doubtful about many things in her intellectual & moral treatment already, and what shall I be when she grows older, & asks those puzzling questions that children do? I hope I shall always preserve my present good intentions & sense of my holy trust, and then I must pray, to be forgiven for my errors, & led into a better course.’

My dear little girl


Gideon Welles,

‘The Philadelphia movement is gaining strength, but at the same time encountering tremendous and violent opposition from the Radicals. I trust and think it will be successful, but the convention will be composed of various elements, some of them antagonistic heretofore, and the error is in not having distinctive principles on which these prevailing opposing elements can centre. The time has arrived when our countrymen must sacrifice personal and mere organized party hostility for the general welfare. Either the Radicals or the Government are to be overthrown. The two are in conflict.

I have confidence that all will come out right, for I rely on an overruling Providence and the good sense and intelligence of the people. Hatred, deadly animosity towards the whole South, a determination to deny them their Constitutional rights, and to oppress and govern them, not allow them to govern themselves, are the features of Radicalism. It is an unsavory, intolerant, and persecuting spirit, disgraceful to the country and age. Defeat in the elections will temper and subdue its ferocity, while success at the polls will kindle it to flames, which will consume every sentiment of tolerance, justice, and Constitutional freedom.’

Neptune’s Civil War


Alfred von Waldersee,

‘Bismarck, who had a suite of his own, has three four-horsed carriages. He himself travels in a heavy conveyance with four horses which cannot keep up with the King’s stallions. For this reason - so it is said - there is intriguing in progress on his part against long marches. He maintains, moreover, that the King ought not to travel through the land alone in this way, but should keep with the army on the march. I don’t think that is necessary, though some more thought might perhaps be given to his safety.’

Kaiser behind the haystack


Arthur Conan Doyle,

‘Was called up about 11 PM by the Captain to see a marvellous sight. Never hope to see anything like it again. The sea was simply alive with great hunchback whales, rather a rare variety, you could have thrown a biscuit onto 200 of them, and as far as you could see there was nothing but spoutings and great tails in the air. Some were blowing under the bowsprit, sending the water on to the forecastle, and exciting our newfoundland tremendously. They are 60-80 feet long, and have extraordinary heads with a hanging pouch like a toad’s from sheer underjaw. They yield about 3 tons of very inferior oil, and are hard to capture so that they are not worth pursuing. We lowered away a boat and fired an old loose harpoon into one which went away with a great splash. They differ from finner whales in having white underfins and tail. Some of them gave a peculiar whistle when they blew, which you could hear a couple of miles off.’

Arctic Sea adventure


Alfred Deakin,

‘The web & woof of history discloses the Divine patter thro’ the dim light of understanding. The myriad unseen influences of individuals living or called dead & the myriads of unguessed agencies operating upon & among them without which the secret of life cannot be mastered.’

I have been to the Commons


Robert Charles Benchley,
writer and actor

‘Germany has declared war on England and Turkey on Servia. It is almost ludicrous in its immensity, yet frightful.’

I hope not a ‘what it was’


Michael Macdonagh,

‘To-day is the day of days. It is a day of action, in contra-distinction to yesterday, which was a day of words. What counts with militaristic Germany is deeds not words. She has paid no attention to Sir Edward Grey’s speech. [. . .] [Prime Minister Herbert] Asquith stood at the Bar holding up another document. “A message from His Majesty signed by his own hand,” said he. At the words, all Members uncovered and the Speaker rose from his Chair. The Prime Minister then walked up the floor to the Table and handed the paper to the Speaker, who read the message to the House. It was a proclamation of the mobilisation of the entire Army. The Navy is already mobilised. This also was received in silence: a wonderful example of restraint and seriousness. Thus it can be said that the House of Commons declared war in no mood either of national vainglory or racial animosity. [. . .]

It was in the streets after the House of Commons had adjourned that I found myself in an atmosphere of real passion. Parliament Street and Whitehall were thronged with people highly excited and rather boisterous. A brilliant sun shone in a cloudless sky. Young men in straw hats were in the majority. Girls in light calico dresses were numerous. All were already touched with the war fever. They regarded their country as a crusader - redressing all wrongs and bringing freedom to oppressed nations. Cries of “Down with Germany!” were raised. Germany was the aggressor. She must be made to ask humbly for peace. The singing of patriotic songs, such as “Rule Britannia,” “The Red White and Blue,” and also “The Marseillaise,” brought the crowds still closer together in national companionship. They saw England radiant through the centuries, valiant and invincible, and felt assured that so she shall appear for ever.

There were opponents, of course. Making my way through the crowds to Trafalgar Square, I found two rival demonstrations in progress under Nelson’s Pillar - on one side of the plinth for war, and on the other against! The rival crowds glared at each other. [. . .] I looked up at the effigy of Nelson - “sailing the sky with one arm and one eye” to see whether in imagination I could notice any change in his attittude. But no! He was still gazing steadily in a south-easterly direction - towards France, the enemy! - as he had been placed on his pillar some eighty years ago.

Suddenly, amidst the cheering and booing, a cry was raised, “The King! The King! On to Buckingham Palace!” [. . .] At Buckingham Palace the crowd sang “God Save the King” with tremendous fervour. His Majesty came out on to the balcony overlooking the forecourt, wearing the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet. [. . .] He had to appear on the balcony three separate times during the evening, because of the chanting of the crowd, slowly and with emphasis, betokening that they would have no refusal. [. . .]

From the Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament came the light and gladsome chimes of the four quarters [. . .] then followed the slow and measured strokes of Big Ben proclaiming to London that it was eleven o’clock. We listened in silence. ’

The drama of London in WWI


James Lees-Milne,
historian and writer

‘It is too easy to be impatient with and censorious of sex when one is 65: the squalor of it, the repetition, the inanity. Yet there’s ground for disagreement that to be in communion with God all carnal appetites should be eschewed because the very actions of fornicating, over-eating, over-drinking are ephemeral, finite. Lusts being mortal are in consequence negative, without injury to man’s immortal gnosis. Whereas cerebration, devotional exercise, worship being perdurable and victorious remain unaffected by them. I daresay the old Fathers would dispute this ratiocination.’

Lees-Milne’s centenary


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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.

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, several times a week. Now over ten years old, The Diary Review is the secondary source for the extracts in this online anthology.