And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

15 December

1784
William Windham,
politician

‘The two days passed . . . afford a strong example how much more is sometimes done on supposed occasions of idleness than in times professedly devoted to study. Stopping at shop and looking into some things in Simson’s Algebra, I felt at that moment what an amazing difference would take place in my mind had I employed the years of leisure which had lapsed through my life in making myself master of the subjects then before me. To these reflections my practice so far conformed, that, after going home about eleven o’clock, I sat up till past two employed very diligently in reducing the formula which I had given in the morning. The work since that time has never been resumed; neither that nor any other kind of work has been done. I cannot, indeed, say that all the time has been misspent; much of it has been employed in performing the last duties of respect and affection to the great man [Johnson] that is gone. But two entire mornings have been taken up, I fear, with little utility of any sort, certainly with none to myself, in attendance on Indian business, and much the greater part of the time dissipated in such avocations as I fear will be for ever incident to a life in London.’

Windham’s love of Johnson

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1797
Andrew Ellicott,
surveyor

‘Much ice in the river. Stopped at an Indian camp, and procured some meat. Dined at the great cave. This cave may be considered as one of the greatest natural curiosities on the river, and I have constantly lamented that I could not spare time to make a drawing of it, and take its dimensions. It is situated on the west side of the river. The entrance is large and spacious, and remarkably uniform, the dome is elliptical, and the uniformity continues to its termination in the hill.

Stopped about sunset to take in some wood. Set off in half an hour and floated all night. Cloudy part of the day. Thermometer rose from 21° to 41°.’

Fat alligators in Florida

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1859
George Eliot,
writer

‘Blackwood proposes to give me for The Mill on the Floss £2000 for 4000 copies of an edition at 31s. 6d. and after the same rate for any more that may be printed at the same price: £150 for 1000 at 12s.; and £60 for 1000 at 6s. I have accepted.’

St Ogg’s on the Floss

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1937
Minnie Vautrin,
missionary

‘It is so difficult to keep track of the days - there is no rhythm in the weeks any more.

From 8:50 this morning until 6 this evening, excepting for the noon meal, I have stood at the front gate while the refugees poured in. There is terror in the face of many of the women - last night was a terrible night in the city and many young women were taken from their houses by the Japanese soldiers. Mr Sane came over this morning and told us about the condition in the Hansimen section, and from that time on we have allowed women and children to come in freely; but always imploring the older women to stay home, if possible, in order to leave a place for younger ones. Many begged for just a place to sit out on the lawn. I think there must be more than 3,000 in tonight. Several groups of soldiers have come but they have not caused trouble, nor insisted on coming in. [. . .]

The Japanese have looted widely yesterday and today, have destroyed schools, killed citizens, and raped women. One thousand disarmed Chinese soldiers, whom the International Committee hoped to save, were taken from them and by this time are probably shot or bayoneted.’

In darkness and fear

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1937
John Rabe,
businessman

‘No sooner am I back in my office at Committee Headquarters, than my boy arrives with bad news - the Japanese have returned and now have 1,300 refugees tied up. Along with Smythe and Mills I try to get these people released, but to no avail. They are surrounded by about 100 Japanese soldiers and, still tied up, are led off to be shot. [. . .] It’s hard to see people driven off like animals. But they say that Chinese shot 2,000 Japanese prisoners in Tsinanfu, too. We hear by way of the Japanese Navy that the gunboat U.S.S. Pany, on which the officials of the American embassy had sought safety, has been accidentally bombed and sunk by the Japanese.’

The Schindler of China

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1941
Thomas Dooley,
soldier

‘My intentions are to keep some sort of running account of what goes on in this fracas. Not a diary nor a memorandum, but a cross between the two. I am one week late in getting this poop on the go - that is, it will be one week old in about four hours. My turn came up as Duty Officer from 12:00 midnight to 8:00 a.m. and the routine being very quiet tonight I can get this under way. Corporal Molina, Battery A, 24th Field Artillery (Philippine Scouts) is the Non-Commissioned Officer on duty and he has just shown me a copy of the radiogram signed by General MacArthur saying “a state of war exists between the US and the government of Germany, Japan and Italy”.’

To Bataan and Back

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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, 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.