And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

11 December

1784
William Windham,
politician

‘First day of skating; ice fine. Find I have lost nothing since last year. Between nine and ten went to Sir Joshua, whom I took up by the way to see Dr Johnson - Strachan and Langton there; no hopes, though a great discharge had taken place from the legs.’

Windham’s love of Johnson

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1799
George Washington,
president

‘But little wind and Raining. Mer. 44 in the Morning and 38 at Night. About 9 oclock the Wind shifted to No. Wt. & it ceased raining but contd. Cloudy. Lord Fairfax, his Son Thos. and daughter - Mrs. Warner Washington & son Whiting - and Mr. Jno. Herbert dined here & returned after dinner.’

Washington’s domestic felicity

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1857
Barbara Bodichon,
artist

‘Last night I sat finishing up my sketches at the public table. Company: the pretty little Mrs H. and her fair Scotch-looking husband, Mr C. the intellectual-looking Californian gentleman and Mrs B. who has a very beautiful expression and is the most refined woman on the boat. Mr C. is reading a paper and read out loud the announcement of the marriage of a mulatto and a white girl; it excites from all expressions of the utmost disgust and horror. I say, ‘It is very uncommon?’ Mr C. ‘Yes! thank God. Only permitted in Massachusetts and a few states.’ ‘There seems to be nothing disgusting in it. My brothers went to school with a mulatto and I with a mulatto girl, and I have seen mulattoes in England who were not unlikely to many with white.’ All: ‘At school! At school with niggers! ‘Yes.’ All: ‘Horrid idea, how could you?’ BLS: ‘Why, your little children all feel it possible to come in close contact with negroes, and they seem to like it; there is no natural antipathy.’ Some: ‘Yes, there is an inborn disgust which prevents amalgamation.’ (Mark this: only one-half the negroes in the United States are full-blooded Africans - the rest [the] produce of white men and black women.) Some. ‘No it is only the effect of education.’ Mr C: ‘There is no school or college in the U S. where negroes could be educated with whites.’ BLS: ‘You are wrong. Sir. At Oberlin men women and negroes are educated together.’ Mrs B: ‘Yes, I know that, because Lucy Stone was educated there with people of colour.’ Mr C: ‘Lucy Stone - she is a Woman’s Rights woman, and an atheist.’

Campaigning for women’s rights

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1875
Heinrich Hertz,
engineer

‘In the meantime the business with the Physics Club has been brought to conclusion, and I feel ashamed of my own rashness. For after receiving a letter on November 29, I went to the Senckenberg library and found Dingler’s Journal there; I leafed through it and soon found all sorts of articles about telegraphy, in fact I came to wonder whether my idea might not have been executed long ago. Therefore I did not go to Dr. Mappoldt right away, as I had intended, but decided first to return to the library on Tuesday. There I realized that it would be folly to set up experiments on something of which I knew as little as I did, and in the end I had to admit it was just as well that there had been some doubts about the propriety of my working in the laboratory, and I therefore withdrew my request. But from then on I went to the library almost every day, and I found a book listed there: Zetzsche, Development of Automatic Telegraphy. I ordered it and on receiving it yesterday I discovered that my idea was the fundamental concept of the entire field of automatic telegraphy; of course no part of it was executed as I had imagined, and the system that came closest to mine, that of Chauvassaigne et Lambrigot, was already obsolete. However, it seemed to me that even they did not formulate the idea that everybody could write his telegram at home on a paper strip supplied by the post office, which ought to have tremendous advantages. After leafing quickly through the periodicals in the reading room, I concentrated on The Development of the Chemical Industry from the Reports on the Vienna World Fair. At home I mostly read Tyndall, Heat as a Form of Motion. At the office I am occupied with copying the plans for the new stock exchange building in reproducing ink. Yesterday I had a new idea which I will perhaps test at home, at Christmastime; namely, to construct large-size lenses by introducing a liquid between two (if possible circular) glass plates of great elasticity and subjecting it to pressure, which will cause the glass plates to bulge out, and the central part of the bulge will probably come close to satisfying the conditions of a lens of large focal distance, at least close enough to collect a quantity of rays even if a clear image is not obtained. The question is only whether the glass is sufficiently elastic to withstand such deformation. To be sure, such a lens would lead to further difficulties in use.’

Hertz and his radio waves

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1941
Thomas Dooley,
soldier

‘Another air raid today. No casualties and little damage done. Casualties on Monday’s raid have been totaled - 82 dead and about 110 wounded. 29 dead were civilians - poor little Carenderas that worked near Batchelors Building. We are getting Jap planes down though. Lots of them are being hit and the Japs toss out equipment to lighten the load so they can get as far back toward their base as possible. Quite a few have been brought down near here though. One plane shot down near Mabalacat (east of Stotsenburg) and Chaplain [Maj. John E] Duffy brought a gun from it to G-2 section. Workmanship crude but they still fire. He reported that natives had buried the pilot and said he was man of larger size than the Chaplain which indicates he was a German. Planes in today’s raid carried Swastika markings. The Nazis have planned and directed the execution of all this. It (especially Monday) was too methodical and timely. My appetite has doubled. For breakfast, even, which prior to “this” consisted of coffee and toast - now consists of fruit, coffee, toast, bacon + eggs and anything else within reach. Am still sleeping like a log when I hit the bunk.’

To Bataan and Back

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1943
Charles McMoran Wilson,
doctor

‘Our luck is out. Soon after daybreak we came down near Tunis. A cold wind blew across the deserted aerodrome, there was no one about, no car, nothing. The P.M. got wearily out of the hot aircraft, looked around blankly and then, in spite of our protests, he sat down on a box, took off his hat and gloomily surveyed the sandy ground. The wind blew a wisp of hair this way and that, his face shone with perspiration. I pressed him to get back into the Skymaster; he only scowled. I went off to find out what had gone wrong, and learned that the airfield where we were expected was fifteen miles from this spot. There was nothing for it but to reembark. As the P.M. walked very slowly to the aircraft there was a grey look on his face that I did not like, and when he came at last to this house he collapsed wearily into the first chair. All day he has done nothing; he does not seem to have the energy even to read the usual telegrams. I feel much disturbed.

I went to bed early and woke to find the P.M. in his dressing-gown standing at the foot of my bed. “I’ve got a pain in my throat, here.” He put his finger just above his collar bone. I rubbed my eyes and got up. “It’s pretty bad. Do you think it’s anything? What can it be due to?” he demanded in one breath. I reassured him, and indeed I am not unduly perturbed. For a man with his strong constitution he never seems to be long without some minor ailment. Probably in the morning I shall hear no more of this pain.’

A third dose of pneumonia

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1943
Rywka Lipszyc,
teenager

‘Sometimes I think that life is a dark road. On this road among the thorns there are other, more delicate flowers. These flowers have no life, they suffer because of the thorns. Sometimes the thorns are jealous of the flowers’ beauty and hurt them more. The flowers either become thorns themselves or suffer in silence and walk through the thorns.

They don’t always succeed but if they persevere, something good will come of it. I think it happens quite rarely but in my opinion every true Jew who is pursuing a goal suffers and keeps silent. Besides, I think life is beautiful and difficult, and I think one has to know how to live. I envy people who have suffered a lot and have lived a difficult life, and yet have won the battle with life. You know, Surcia, such people (when I read or hear about them) cheer me up. I then realize that I am not the only one or the first one, that I can have hope. But I’m not writing about myself.

You know, when I’m very upset I admire life. Then I wonder. Why at the same time are some people crying, while others are laughing or suffering? At the same time some are being born, others die or get sick. Those who are born grow up. They mature in order to live and suffer. And yet all of them want to live, desperately want to live. A living person always has hope (sometimes unconsciously). Although life is difficult, it is also beautiful. Life has its strange charm. (I will tell you the truth: I don’t feel like living, it’s too much for me, I will go to sleep soon and I don’t want to get up). Oh, Surcia, if I really couldn’t get up!’

I don’t feel like living

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1969
Peter Scott,
artist and conservationist

‘The night in the cottage of an archaeologist was pretty cheerless and very cold. I couldn’t get my feet warm and was wearing all available clothes including my quilted jacket. Rens Visser called us at 6 and after bread and cheese and a cup of sweet tea we drove a dozen miles to a point on the main road where a Red-breasted Goose flight line had been observed crossing it by Kuyken in November and by Visser more recently.

It was blowing an icy gale with poor visibility when we stopped on a high ridge. At 7:15 in grey dawn light the first bunch of geese came over; with binoculars it was possible to count 9 small silhouettes of Redbreasts among 23 Whitefronts. The next lot of 18 had 5 Redbreasts - but all were silhouettes in black against a dark sky.’

Scott’s wild goose chase

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2013
Paul Gambaccini,
writer and broadcaster

‘I have been shunned by the Labour Party, which is holding its Thousand Club Christmas drinks tonight. The invitation is on my desk, but since my arrest, it had been decided it would be best if I did not appear.

Only a year ago I hosted a fundraiser for Ed Miliband in my flat. Leading dignitaries of the party from Iain McNicol to Chuka Umunna were there alongside celebrities including Joan Armatrading, Ben Elton, Brian May and David Tennant. One year later, I am persona non grata.

Neither Ed nor anyone else from Labour have had the basic human decency to call to see how I am coping or even what this is about.

It has obviously not occurred to anyone in the Labour Party that something more than manners is at stake here. An injustice is occurring in its own house, yet it turns away from the victim for fear of taint.

So much for the party that fought heroically for the rights of the poor, the black and the gay.

It is now more afraid of a photo opportunity gone wrong than it is committed to social justice. Heroism has given way to cowardice.’

Happy birthday, Gambaccini

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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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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 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.