And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

20 December

Thomas Isham,

‘Today we challenged the Maidwell men to a cock fight. Two oxen were killed for Christmas . . .’

Son eaten by sow


Jacob Bee,

‘A figure of a comet appeared about three-quarters of an hour after four at night, the first appearance was in the form of a half-moon, very firie, and afterwards did change itselfe to a firye sword and run westward.’

Very fiery comets


Mary Coke,

‘The new opera, I am told, is extremely disliked. Mr Walpole says he will go to it no more. He made the Princess Amelia a present of his snuff-box with the picture of Harry the Fourth of France, who she was expressing her admiration of. As he had wore it in his pocket for above a year, I don’t think it was proper, at least I should have thrown out the snuff; however, it was very politely received and accepted.’

Violent, absurd and mad


Henry Pelham-Clinton,

‘My preparations for the sale of Aldbro’ & Boro’bridge are now completed - They are valued at nearly [£] 146,000, but I think this much too low & I Shall not allow it to be Sold at that price -I should consider it to be very well sold at [£] 170,000.’

My courage failed


Henry Pelham-Clinton,

‘Mr Maunsel the Conservative Candidate for Northamptonshire has terminated the first day’s poll, most triumphantly with a majority of above 600 - the 2nd day will most probably produce a Still larger majority in his favor - all this shews the altered feeling in the Country.’

My courage failed


Thomas Cairns Livingstone,

‘Agnes in the washing house all day, and it rained, and it rained, and it rained, and it rained, and it RAINED. Likewise, it was very cold. Not a good ‘drying day’, in washerwife talk. Unemployment getting very serious. Bread a farthing down today. Hallelujah!’

The turkey we didn’t have


Gabrielle West,
policewoman and carer

‘Here we are in Chester. Very nice rooms, very nice landlady, very nice place and very nice work.

There are three shifts: 5.30 am to 2.00 pm, 2.00 pm to 11.00 pm and 10.00 pm to 6.00 am. We do afternoon and morning alternately, with an occasional night, but night work doesn’t come very often as only two people do that at a time, whereas there are eight or nine by day. The factory is about 5 miles from Chester and you go by train. On the morning shift you have to rise at 4.00 am. Horrid! Still, you get the afternoon to yourself, and as the work is not too hard you aren’t too exhausted to enjoy yourself, as at Woolwich.

The work consists of the following duties:
Searching incoming workers for matches, cigarettes spirits etc. in pockets, baskets etc.
Searching outgoing workers for stolen property.
Keeping guard at the gate and allowing no one to enter without a pass.
Conducting stray visitors round and dealing with new workers, lost passes, lost clock cards etc.
Keeping order in the clocking shed. Locking and unlocking it.
Keeping the office where clerks etc. sign on and off, enquiries are made, visitors passes visa’d and entered etc.
Patrolling to see that no one is larking or slacking.

We take turns at all these various jobs, none of which were taught us during training. We have two hours off for meals, so life is not too strenuous.

Chester is a lovely old town of half-timbered houses, a fine cathedral, a very interesting old church and also a complete city wall you can walk all the way round, about 3 miles. The river is good for boating, so in the summer I shall try and learn how to row properly. Do you remember how Joan and I used to splash round at Tewksbury and Evesham, and how you scandalized the neighbourhood by paddling a canoe a la the university with its head in the air?’

No larking or slacking


George Hubert Wilkins,

‘For the first time in history, new land was being discovered from the air’; and ‘We had left at 8:30 in the morning, had covered 1300 miles - nearly a thousand of it over unknown territory - and had returned in time to cover the plane with a storm hood, go to the HEKTORIA, bathe and dress and sit down at eight o’clock to dinner as usual in the comfort of the ship’s wardroom.’

The first aerial explorer


Miles Franklin,

‘We called on Miss G [Gillespie] on the way home. Washing up after tea Jack [Franklin] expressed his regret that I was unmarried. “Oh, Auntie, such a pity you are wasted. You would make such a splendid wife. Look at the wav you make cakes, and iron Dad’s shirts, and the way you can shop and cook! Couldn’t you get married now?”

“I’m too old.”

“That oughtn’t to be against you. You could keep house well, and write books in your spare time. I’d marry you, only you are my relation.”

“Consanguinity as well as age spoils my chances,” said I, smothering a grin. The dear youngster was the general as well as the particular Australian male. Write books in my spare time. People 3 & 4 times his age have no more understanding of writing & its demands upon the writer.’

Couldn’t you get married now?


Rob Ellis,

‘One week from today my diary will become ten years old. It’s getting to be a fat little rascal and perhaps may be the only literature of any value I’ll leave when I die. The other day it occurred to me that it might be a good idea for someone to get an advance from a publishing house and then travel around the country in search of men and women who keep diaries. The good diaries, the ones that are truthful and readable and revealing - these should be published. The ordinary lives of ordinary folks. Personal history, en masse, becomes national history.

If I remember correctly, Voltaire called footnotes in a book the sound of slippers sneaking up the back staircase - something like this. Anyway, this is the kind of history found in diaries - the slippers-under-the-bed, the Mrs. Grundy-just-told-me, the sure-crossed-up-that-guy-yesterday, the hope-that-I’ll-get-it-tomorrow, the but-you-said-you-loved-me, the wail-of-a-lonely-frail, as the song says. The marginalia of civilization.’

A fat little rascal


Michael Spicer,

‘Stood in for CP [Cecil Parkinson] at Conservative Central Office party. Main job was to introduce PM to everyone. She was tired and therefore relaxed and at her most personable. For once got on rather well with her. She actually touched my arm at one point! CP, however, still furious with her performance at Cabinet. She had complained he was taking a week’s holiday over Christmas – skiing – whereas she claimed to be working herself the whole time. Drive down to Chequers with CP for election planning meeting. PM in abrasive form. Clearly does not want a general election until 1984. Sit next to PM at lunch at her request. Why me? Answer: earlier in the day it had been decided that I should replace Ian Gow [Thatcher’s PPS] on her tours round the country when he is in his constituency. Norman Tebbit [Employment Secretary] very much around; he is a favourite. He kept on warning me that unemployment would be the clinching issue. He sat on her other side.’

The spiceless diaries


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And so made significant . . .
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Why Ever Did I Want to Write is a patchwork of themed stories about one man’s early life, embracing highs and lows but driven by a desire to make the most of being alive, to experience, to feel, and above all to understand. Reminiscent of Karl Knausgaard’s A Death in the Family and Theodore Zeldin’s An Intimate History of Humanity, this memoir, often based on diaries, sees Lyons reflecting on a repressed childhood, exploring the world through years of travelling, and searching for meaning and excitement in the arts and love affairs – an archetype of the counterculture in the 1970s and 1980s.

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And so made significant . . .
is the world’s greatest online anthology of diary extracts. It is presented in the same way as popular books like The Assassin’s Cloak and The Faber Book of Diaries, i.e. by calendar day, but contains more, and many longer, extracts than is possible in published books. Moreover, for each quoted extract there’s a link to a Diary Review article with some or all of the following: further extracts, biographical information, contexts, a portrait, and links to online sources/etexts. Furthermore, new extracts are added on a regular basis.

in diary days



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.

SITE DEVISED by Paul K Lyons

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.