And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

12 December

1631
John Rous,
priest

‘At night as is thought, some West-country packman that had sold all in Norfolk, returned by Thetford, and went towards Barton milles late; but the next morning three horses with pack saddles and two packes were found short of Elden a mile. These horses and packes are seised by the lord of Elden. Some thinke a man is murthered and robbed: some thinke that it a servant that is ridden away on the fourth horse with the mony. The packes were fish, either bought or trucked at Norwich or Yermouth.’

Newes from Cambridge

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1799
George Washington,
President

‘Morning Cloudy - Wind at No. Et. & Mer. 33. A large circle round the Moon last Night. About 1 oclock it began to snow - soon after to Hail and then turned to a settled cold Rain. Mer. 28 at Night.’

Washington’s domestic felicity

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1889
Alice James,
sister of writer

‘I wonder, whether, if I had had any education I should have been more, or less, of a fool than I am. It would have deprived me surely of those exquisite moments of mental flatulence which every now and then inflate the cerebral vacuum with a delicious sense of latent possibilities - of stretching oneself to cosmic limits, and who would ever give up the reality of dreams for relative knowledge?’

Geyser of emotions

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1969
Peter Scott,
artist and conservationist

‘What a day of days! Tom and I were up at 5. [. . .] We motored to Sinoie, meeting a torrential rain storm, so that the turning down from the main road was a raging milky river. The middle of the road was still mostly above water but the ditches on either side were rising. [. . .]

At 7:15 the flight began. The geese came in great masses about 1.5 to 2km to the north of the road and went down in two principal places, one just over the hill and the other just below a communal tractor and farm machinery station on the hill beyond. The geese made a dark patch on the green of the sprouting wheat in the middle of the field of perhaps 500 acres. Could Whitefronts sit so thick? Such sounds as we could hear gave no conclusive indication of the species though we felt that some at least must be Red-breasted Geese, Branta ruficollis. The weather seemed to be improving with the light. By the end of the flight we thought that between 6 and 7 thousand geese had settled in about three places. None was less than half a mile from us. To give the weather time to improve we moved, when the flight was over, down into the village of Sinoie. We bought a water bottle to supply the little squeegee which cleaned our car windows - the most essential feature for goose-watching and goose-finding in these parts.

Then we returned to the geese. [. . .] There was nothing for it but a long muddy walk. [. . .] So, as we walked up the hill, we bore right through the standing maize stalks, into dead ground. Heavy rain was approaching, and we sat on some stooks for a while to let it pass. Then we plodded on through the maize. We came upon the fresh tracks of a wild boar which had run out of the maize ahead of us. Presently we swung left towards the ridge and towards the geese, and came almost at once to the edge of a sand quarry. We jumped into it and walked across. It offered shelter from the now continuous rain under its upwind overhanging cliff. We moved to the edge overlooking the geese, and it was from this point that our most valuable observations were made. Already there were Whitefronts within 100 yards of us in the maize stubble. These were constantly being joined by Redbreasts. [. . .] Then came the business of assessing their numbers [. . .] the same total was reached 3 times over. It was between 3,800 and 4,000 Red-breasted Geese. [. . .] The total experience of all this was so absorbingly exciting that we scarcely noticed the continuous rain[. . .] we had been with the Redbreasts since dawn - a magical morning, especially when I recall my pre-war Redbreast hunts to Hungary, Romania, Iraq and Persia in the 1930s. [. . .]

It was in every way a superbly eventful day.’

Scott’s wild goose chase

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1989
Andreas Ramos,
businessman and writer

‘Everything was out of control. Police on horses watched. There was nothing they could do. The crowd had swollen. People were blowing long alpine horns which made a huge noise. There were fireworks, kites, flags and flags and flags, dogs, children. The wall was finally breaking. The cranes lifted slabs aside. East and West German police had traded caps. To get a better view, hundreds of people were climbing onto a shop on the West German side. We scampered up a nine foot wall. People helped each other; some lifted, others pulled. All along the building, people poured up the wall. At the Berlin Wall itself, which is 3 meters high, people had climbed up and were sitting astride. The final slab was moved away. A stream of East Germans began to pour through. People applauded and slapped their backs.’

The fall of the Wall

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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.