And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

2 December

1829
Henry Edward Fox,
diplomat

‘A cold, raw day. I got up late and took no bath. I called on Lady Webster and Miss Monson. The former is a fine, open-hearted, cheerful woman, perfectly good-humoured and devoid of any affectation. She has remains of very extraordinary beauty and is still very handsome. I then went to Lady L. The Chancellor is gone. Before he went she received another anonymous letter from London, threatening to expose her to him, and accusing her of an embrace with me on the steps leading to the Chain Pier on Saturday last, on which day I was in London and she was in her bed. This takes off any apprehension we might feel, for it proves the ignorance of our enemies. Great God! What a dreadful country this is to live in, and how much better for the peace of society and for the agrémens of life is the despotism of one man to the inquisitive tyranny and insolent exactions of a whole nation. She very wisely instantly showed the letter to her husband, at the same time showing The Age with a paragraph about her and Cradock, and desired him to direct her future conduct, which he has done in advising her to continue exactly as if she had never received such letters and not to allow the avarice of blackguards to harass and torment her.’

In Brighton with George IV

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1836
William Macready,
actor

‘Acted Othello with earnestness and spirit, but occasionally weak as to physical power; very much applauded, and in possession of the audience; heard that Mrs Butler was in the theatre before the fifth act, and from a feeling of pique which I cannot altogether account for, except that I thought her an impostor in the art, took particular pains with the last scene, and played it very powerfully; was much applauded, and heard a call begun for me as I left the stage. The prompter came to my room for me, but when I reached the stage I heard that Mr Kemble (!) had gone on; this was too good, so I observed that they would no doubt be quiet, and returned. This was either a most extraordinary freak in the audience, or a most consummate piece of Jesuitical impertinence in him - to make something of himself before his daughter. I was not very pleased, but showed no feeling about it.’

Acted Macbeth very unequally

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1864
Charles Piazzi Smyth,
scientist

‘[Lassell’s Observatory, Valetta] Pass through Palau Gardens. Trees growing well in courts, Norfolk Island pine, oleander, pomegranate, oranges and a plant with its branches tipped with red leaves looking like bright red flowers. Down again on opposite side of ridge through streets where two modern English ladies can hardly pass with their hoops. Note the Maltese lace with the Maltese crosses worked therein; at last reach quarantine harbour, looks blue, bright but very lovely compared with the other. On opposite shore, see Mr Lassell’s telescope, white and twin tower like. Take a boat and on landing find it on top of a bare ridge within a walled enclosure, a few houses and a few small streets in the way, all blazing yellow. Walled enclosure looks expensive and solid. Knock at small private-looking door, where is only a small keyhole, clearly an astronomer’s night latch key. Man appears, half English, half Maltese; admits party and goes off with letters and cards to Mrs Lassell at the house, some half a mile off. We are then seated in the workshop which runs all along one side of the enclosure, guess length of room 70 feet, part being given to a steam-engine room; the engine shaft entering the other bigger room and capable of being connected with the polishing machinery which appears made in excellent engineering style; but cumbersome of course for mirrors 4 feet in diameter. Lathes, benches, work tables and side shelves with tools innumerable and rafter space stored away with all sorts of bar-iron and wooden planking.

Mr Lassell presently comes in from Valetta; recognises and begins explaining. Mrs Lassell and daughters from the house, who carry off Jessie and Miss Stanley [their travelling companion] there, and Mr Lassell again explains that everything there within, including that enclosure, was put by himself. Steam engine and workshop, of course, for he cannot polish the speculum without steam engine. (At this point, amongst the bundles of iron bars, ask him for a piece of one, 1 foot long, for material for making a standard rule for the Pyramid. He did not seem at first well inclined to part with anything but a scrap upon the floor straight on one side and cut into an arc on the other; but finally directed his man to file off a foot from a large double bar of this iron, about 20 foot long, which I thanked him for).

Then to telescope again; 4 foot mirror, 40 feet long, his old Liverpool construction of Polar axis. Motion in AR given by a man turning an endless screw 1 inch in a second agreeably with motion of pendulum which he sees just before him. This rather wet; and this first screw and its handle have a large flywheel to equalise the man’s efforts. The first second’s worm acts on the endless screw of AR circle only through train of wheels and pinions. Tube of telescope novel in being open, formed of longitudinal laths of iron bar traced with rings; Mr L. says it decidedly performs better than the solid tube and eliminates most of the twirling and twitching of stars’ images. Observer brought to end of telescope by a tower which has 3 separate observing stories one above the other and can be advanced to and from centre and all round centre on a great circular stage and railway.

At this point came up his assistant Mr Marth, the German, with a paper of places for the next few nights of the 4 modem satellites of Uranus, for without the plans compiled beforehand it is very difficult to say which are satellites and which are small stars in certain parts of the sky. Consider Mr L. has settled the non-existence of 4 out of Sir W. Herschel’s 6 satellites of Uranus, for 2 of the modem 4 will not answer to any of the old 6. Negative discovery seems all that has crowned Mr L.’s vast labour. He has found no new satellite of Neptune or Uranus and no rings; apparently nothing planetary. Obs[ervations] of nebulae going on also.

This result apparently unsatisfactory in face of such appalling works, engineering and architectural i.e. appalling to anyone who has not the means (money) and whose hobby it is not. Seems to have had a depressing and rigidifying effect on Mr L. Wonder, with all his old deference to Mr Airy that he takes for an assistant Mr Marth, the German whose only great work hitherto has been his reputedly evil attack on Mr Airy and the Greenwich observations. . . But with all this assistance, no discovery yet.

Went down to the house with Mr Lassell; really a splendid house, for size of halls, rooms and staircases, paved with stone and 20 feet high (the rooms). All had a very good luncheon or early dinner and family were very kind. Took notes of precession in RA and NPD for α Draconis and ε Tauri [significant stars to be observed in Egypt]. Mr Lassell only stiller and stiffer and when at last Pyd [pyramid] and standard measures were introduced by Jessie he declared that he could not see any possible method by which the proportion of the Earth’s diameter on any scale could be ascertained! And that was given out in a manner implying that it would be a waste of time for anyone to be occupying himself with any questions thereanent.

So left them at 2.15 p.m., glad to have seen them and obliged to them, but with a something, somewhere, wanting in mental satisfaction.’

Accompanied by ghost

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1878
Henry J. Heinz,
businessman

‘Had to speak plainly to the bill clerk, as he delayed some invoices last night and insisted it must not happen again. Also called all the girls together upstairs. Told them we would not allow talking during working hours except such as was necessary to do their work, etc. All was kindly received. Good feeling throughout the house.’

Caught in the mustard mill

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1912
Heinrich Schenker,
composer

‘My mother found completely at ease, despite having suffered my vehemence. (She had, yet again, inferior evidence of anguish from Mozio).

A joint visit to the Urania suggested by Floriz initially declined. ’

Diaries of a musical theorist

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1924
Edward Weston,
photographer

‘In the same way that I ruined part of my last sitting of Tina done two months ago, I fogged today’s by turning on the white light during the development. It almost seems that fate has decreed against my doing what I wish to do in the way of portraying Tina. But one of the negatives made this morning pleases me: the glare of light on the azotea destroyed all the delicate modulations in Tina’s face. It was flat and uninteresting, - too, the eyes were filled with unpleasant catch lights. I must call the sitting a failure. We shall try again tomorrow.

After ordering prints on our exchange, amounting to 230 pesos, Mr. Fred Davis intimated that he would like at least four or five more prints, so I shall have clothing to the value of some 380 pesos. Good luck indeed!

Tomorrow a big day: in the morning Tina again, in the afternoon Jean Chariot. Diego was pleased with his proofs. They are, I will say, well seen. His choice was one in which his huge bulk was exaggerated, and his face expressed a cynical sadness.’

Lost behind my camera

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1966
Mohammed Ayub Khan,
soldier and politician

‘Went to Nawabshah for a day shoot in the Pai forest. The bag was 135 partridges. I shot 79. It was a poor shoot. Something has gone wrong. There are not so many birds there now.

Large number of people had come to see me at the airport. An address was read out inviting me to accept presidentship for twenty years. I told them that was wrong. People must exercise their right of choice every five years in accordance with the constitution. Little do they know that I should be very happy if they find someone else to replace me provided he is suitable and does not bring to naught what I have done.’

Diaries of a Pakistan leader

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1969
Mohammed Ayub Khan,
soldier and politician

‘Shaukat Ali, son of Imran Khan, who was a friend of mine, came to see me. I had helped him to go to England to do his bar. He belongs to Dacca and was a close lieutenant of Maulana Bhashani. Now he has given him up and joined the Awami League. Talking about Bhashani, he said the old man is now 84. He had a prostrate gland operation sometime back, the doctors told him that he was good for another 20 years. I said that then God help East Pakistan. I am told that at the time of partition Nehru complained to Sir Sa’adullah of Shillong that Sylhet district was being divided and the major portion being handed over to Pakistan. He will see to its destruction. So there was no cause for worry. Bhashani has been the major disruptive actor in East Pakistan. He is an unprecedented rabble-rouser.

I understand that during the recent editors conference held by Yahya a question was asked why action was not taken against me. He replied that he had found nothing against me but if anybody has any evidence he could go to the court.

I asked my son Akhtar Ayub as to how will it do if Qayyum became the head of the Muslim League. He said that unless I was prepared to take active part in politics, the Muslim League would cease to exist. My supporters, out of consideration for me, will wait for a while, but soon they will seek alliance with others. Some will go to Daultana, others to Qayyum and so on. Most of them on the Frontier will follow Qayyum as he is the only plausible counter to the Red Shirts. Council League, through the influence of Daultana, would join them and there is a link between Mujib, Daultana and Wali Khan. Though by no means ideal, Qayyum is the lesser evil and the only alternative, so I have told him to sound out Qayyum on whether he is prepared to take the lead in the Muslim League.’

Diaries of a Pakistan leader

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1980
Andy Warhol,
artist

‘Richard Weisman called and invited me to the party for the famous Hollywood photographer George Hurrell at Doubles. Got there and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was coming out, and I asked him why he was leaving and he said because he’d stood in front of his photograph and had his picture taken by the press so then it was time to leave.

The big stars there were Lillian Gish, Maureen Stapleton. Tammy Grimes. I met Mr. Hurrell and he’s really strong and straight and Paul Morrissey had said that he was about to pop off any minute, but there he was and he knew all about me and he raved and he was sweet and I asked him if I could take a picture and he said sure.

Maureen O’Sullivan was next to me and she was saying. “Oh, I’ve just been throwing out so many Hurrells and Clarence Bulls, we’ve been moving.” I asked her what it was like to get so close to Johnny Weissmuller’s body and she said it was okay but that she only was interested in intellectuals, my dear. I said, ‘So is Mia really going to marry Woody Allen?’ And she said that she really didn’t know, and then I told her that I was only kidding, that I didn’t care. And I met Teresa Wnght and she looked good.’

The Andy Warhol Diaries

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2014
Axel Lindén,
farmer

‘Sometimes, like today, prising the silage out of the bale is all but impossible. Somehow the tufts of grass manage to weave themselves inextricably together. I keep at it and get sweaty. And angry. We’re supposed to work collectively on this farm of ours, that’s the whole idea, though clearly it doesn’t apply to everyone. I’m the only one doing any work, I think bitterly. I don’t get worked up normally but an unexpected rage starts bubbling up inside when I have to labour hard enough to be out of breath. It is cathartic.’

I hope the ewes heard me

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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.

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.