And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

5 August

1754
Henry Fielding,
writer and lawyer

‘In the night at twelve, our ship having received previous visits from all the necessary parties, took the advantage of the tide, and having sailed up to Lisbon, cast anchor there, in a calm, and a moonshiny night, which made the passage incredibly pleasant to the women, who remained three hours enjoying it, whilst I was left to the cooler transports of enjoying their pleasures at second-hand; and yet, cooler as they may be, whoever is totally ignorant of such sensation, is, at the same time, void of all ideas of friendship.’

Voyage to Lisbon

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1885
John William Horsley,
priest

‘A woman, aged 36, has been eight years free, but has suffered five and seven years’ penal servitude. She must have begun young! She was turned out of doors “for cheek” by her stepfather when she was 15, then fell in with thieves and got five years when 15 for robbing a man of £63 in the street. She is not old, but she has outlived the possibility of a schoolgirl being sent to penal servitude for her first theft. There is such a thing as State-created crime.

A woman, aged 27, remanded for drunkenness and trying to rescue her husband, who was apprehended for being drunk and assaulting the police when they both had been “chucked out” of a public curse. They had regular work and are in comfortable circumstances; but then one must enjoy Bank Holiday. They have had seven children; one is living: of course this has nothing to do with their intemperance.

Justice Manisty sentences a man to two years for outraging a child aged 10, and regrets the law does not allow him to give more. The same copy of the paper records an exactly similar case in America - only there the man got twenty years. Oh our beautiful and righteous laws! “Who steals my purse, steals trash” - but can get penal servitude for so doing. Who steals the virtue of a child - cannot be punished half so severely. Oh these laws! “Proputty, proputty, proputty, that’s what I hear ‘un say.” [A quote from Tennyson.] Protect our spoons of course as long as they exist, but a national tumult is necessary to get protection for our girls.’

State-created crime

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1914
Michael Macdonagh,
journalist

‘ “Britain at War!” So London is informed this morning in bold black letters on the placard of The Times. In the House of Commons to-day, Asquith made officially the inevitable announcement. “Since eleven o’clock last night a state of war has existed between Germany and this country.” ’

The drama of London in WWI

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1931
Benjamin Roth,
lawyer

‘The town is stunned by the news that The Home Savings and Loan Co. has suspended payments and would demand 60 days notice of withdrawals. This is followed quickly by similar announcements from The Federal Savings and Loan Co. and The Metropolitan Savings and Loan Co. All of these loan companies paid 5 ½% on savings deposits and earned their money by lending on real estate. With the coming of the depression people stopped payments on their mortgages; mortgages became frozen and the banks had no ways to get cash. Mortgages are a safe investment but cannot be liquidated quickly and are not a good investment for a bank which has agreed to pay out its deposits on demand. For the past three days these institutions have been besieged by hysterical depositors demanding their money.’

‘I went to the fruit market house this evening. It was almost deserted. The farmers cannot sell their produce because men are not working and it has become fashionable for each family to have its own vegetable garden.’

Banks suspend payments

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1939
Ivan Maisky,
diplomat

‘Went to St Pancras railway station to see off the British and French military missions. Lots of people, reporters, photographers, ladies and young girls. I met General Doumenc, head of the French mission, and a few of his companions. The heads of the British mission - Admiral Drax (head), Air Marshal Burnett and Major General Heywood - were my guests for lunch yesterday and we greeted one another like old acquaintances.

On my way home, I couldn’t help smiling at history’s mischievous sense of humour.

In subjective terms, it is difficult to imagine a situation more favourable for an Anglo-German bloc against the USSR and less favourable for an Anglo-Soviet bloc against Germany. Indeed, the spontaneous preferences of the British ‘upper ten thousand’ most definitely lie with Germany. In his sleep, Chamberlain dreams of a deal with Hitler at the expense of third countries, i.e. ultimately at the expense of the USSR. Even now the PM still dreams of ‘appeasement’. On the other side, in Berlin, Hitler has always advocated a bloc with Britain. He wrote about this fervently back in Mein Kampf. Highly influential groups among the German fascists, bankers and industrialists also support closer relations with England. I repeat: the subjective factor is not only 100%, but a full 150% behind an Anglo-German bloc.

And yet, the bloc fails to materialize. Slowly but unstoppably, Anglo-German relations are deteriorating and becoming increasingly strained. Regardless of Chamberlain’s many attempts to ‘forget’, to ‘forgive’, to ‘reconcile’, to ‘come to terms’, something fateful always occurs to widen further the abyss between London and Berlin. Why? Because the vital interests of the two powers - the objective factor - prove diametrically opposed. And this fundamental conflict of interests easily overrides the influence of the subjective factor. Repulsion is stronger than attraction.

The reverse scenario holds for Anglo-Soviet relations. Here the subjective factor is sharply opposed to an Anglo-Soviet bloc. The bourgeoisie and the Court dislike, even loathe, ‘Soviet communism’. Chamberlain has always been eager to cut the USSR’s throat with a feather. And we, on the Soviet side, have no great liking for the ‘upper ten thousand’ of Great Britain. The burden of the past, the recent experience of the Soviet period, and ideological practice have all combined to poison our subjective attitude towards the ruling elite in England, and especially the prime minister, with the venom of fully justified suspicion and mistrust. I repeat: the subjective factor in this case is not only 100%, but a full 150% against an Anglo-Soviet bloc.

And yet the bloc is gradually taking shape. When I look back over the seven years of my time in London, the overall picture is very instructive. Slowly but steadily, via zigzags, setbacks and failures, Anglo-Soviet relations are improving. From the Metro-Vickers case to the military mission’s trip to Moscow! This is the distance we have covered! The abyss between London and Moscow keeps narrowing. Field engineers are successfully fixing beams and rafters to support the bridge over the remaining distance. Why? Because the vital interests of the two powers - the objective factor - coincide. And this fundamental coincidence overrides the influence of the subjective factor. Attraction proves stronger than repulsion.

The military mission’s journey to Moscow is a historical landmark. It testifies to the fact that the process of attraction has reached a very high level of development.

But what an irony that it should fall to Chamberlain to build the Anglo-Soviet bloc against Germany!

Yes, mischievous history really does have a vicious sense of humour.

However, everything flows. The balance of forces described above corresponds to the present historical period. The picture would change dramatically if and when the question of a proletarian revolution outside the USSR becomes the order of the day.’

An old, leaky, faded umbrella!

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1992
Christopher McCandless,
hiker

‘DAY 100! MADE IT!. BUT IN WEAKEST CONDITION OF LIFE. DEATH LOOMS AS SERIOUS THREAT. TOO WEAK TO WALK OUT. HAVE LITERALLY BECOME TRAPPED IN THE WILD - NO GAME.’

Beautiful blueberries

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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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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.