And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

25 December

1840
Elizabeth Smith,
writer

‘Christmas day. What a pity - I forgot teetotalism when I mixed the puddings, and not one of the outside men would taste them. Now when those unruly people have such self-command where they think it a sin to yield to temptation, is it not plain that properly educated they would be a fine and a moral race, almost equally plain that those thousand crimes they do commit they have not been taught to consider sins.’

A Highland diarist in Ireland

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1870
Cosima Liszt Wagner,
wife of composer

‘About this day, my children, I can tell you nothing - nothing about my feelings, nothing about my mood, nothing, nothing, nothing. I shall just tell you, dryly and plainly, what happened. When I woke up I heard a sound, it grew even louder, I could no longer imagine myself in a dream, music was sounding, and what music! After it had died away, R came in to me with the five children and put into my hands the score of his Symphonic Birthday Greeting. I was in tears, but so, too, was the whole household; R had set up his orchestra on the stairs and thus consecrated our Tribschen forever! The Tribschen Idyll - thus the work is called. - At midday Dr Sulzer arrived, surely the most important of R’s friends! After breakfast the orchestra again assembled, and now once again the Idyll was heard in the lower apartment, moving us all profoundly (Countess B was also there, on my invitation); after it the Lohengrin wedding procession, Beethoven’s Septet, and, to end with, once more the work of which I shall never hear enough! - Now at last I understood all R’s working in secret, also dear Richter’s trumpet (he blazed out the Siegfried theme splendidly and had learned the trumpet especially to do it), which had won him many admonishments from me. ‘Now let me die,’ I exclaimed to R ‘It would be easier to die for me than to live for me,’ he replied. - In the evening R reads his Meistersinger to Dr Sulzer, who did not know it; and I take as much delight in it as if it were something completely new. This makes R say, ‘I wanted to read Sulzer Die Ms, and it turned into a dialogue between us two.’

Music was sounding

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1877
Cosima Liszt Wagner,
wife of composer

‘Real brilliant sunshine, the first time for two months! R says to me, ‘Your birthday is my Sunday!’ He decides on a walk with the children before lunch, we go into the palace gardens, Siegfried’s new suit, in old Germanic style, gives us much pleasure. A merry meal, R solemnly proposes my health. In the evening the history of the Arabs again, after which R reads the first 3 cantos of the Divina commedia, to our great delight; then I ask him for something from Parsifal, and he plays Gurnemanz’s narration, the entry of Parsifal - divine blessings for my birthday!’

Music was sounding

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1893
Lady Aberdeen,
philanthropist

‘Such a horrible muggy day for our first Canadian Christmas. Yesterday & to-day it has been thawing vigorously - & in the space of a few days there have been differences of temperatures of 60°, which are rather trying. Great lamentations over no skating or snow sports for to-day.

We had a delightful home-like service in the new Chapel, conducted by Mr Winfield, who pending the time that he gets a charge is to be appointed chaplain & tutor to Archie & Marjorie in Latin & English Literature. We are very fortunate in finding him here ready to hand - he is an Oxford man & took orders in the English Church - was in W. Africa, the Bermudas, New Brunswick & then here in connection with the Reformed Episcopalian Church a small body seceding from the Anglican church on account of High Church doctrine. It is supposed that there is not much in the way of ritualistic practices, but v. High Church teaching. Mr Winfield has latterly felt it utterly unsatisfactory to belong to a Church without a past & without a future & so resigned his charge & has joined the Presbyterian Church. But he reads the English service in new chapel quite willingly. He is a cultured man, & is v. fond of children having one little boy of his own of eight. He is a great admirer of H.D.

The children had a day of games with Cosmo in their company all day. We went over to the Cottage to see Carry this afternoon - it was raining though it had begun to freeze again - & it was ridiculous to see the rain freezing as it fell & making it quite difficult to shut one’s umbrella.

Marjorie has made a lot of wonderfully neat Christmas presents this year - & has sent 15 home & given twenty here. She made a little bookcase for me & a printed maple leaf almanack for her Father - & lots of pretty little things for people in the house. Archie carved a ruler for me very well, & made a little model cottage covered with birch bark & thatched with straw as a letter box for his Father.

For the staff we had some enamelled maple leaf brooches & pins made by Birks which were eminently successful. Lord Ava was most lavish in his presents all round. We had a Christmas tree decoration for the dinner table to-night which looked well, with the Irish silver-gilt potato rings.’

God save the Queen

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1910
Jean Sibelius,
composer

‘Christmas - ! Aino sick . . . Continue to work. Money worries begin again! Of my State Prize only 400 remains. Eight doctors’ bills unpaid. Misery wherever one turns.’

An inner confession

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1918
George Allardice Riddell,
businessman

‘Long talk with Kitchener, who said that LG’s alleged statement as to the number of troops in France was inaccurate and that what LG had really said was that the number of troops ‘overseas’ amounted to thirty-six divisions. I referred to the speech, in which the words were ‘over there’. K said, ‘Well, if he said that he was wrong, and the speech must be put right in Hansard.’ He asked Brade to see that this done.

K commented upon what he called ‘Newspaper embroidery’ and complained of the criticisms as to the inconsistencies between his statements and those of the PM as to the efficiency of our output of munitions of war. He asked my opinion. I replied that they seemed inconsistent and that this was the general opinion. K said, ‘The Times has been the most virulent critic, I am told, but I never read it.’ He asked me to look up the speeches, which I did subsequently, and wrote to him setting out the two passages. He said that Northcliffe was acting very badly and that it was difficult to know how to deal with him.’

Riddell and Lloyd George

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1943
Charles McMoran Wilson, doctor

‘To Early Service with Mrs Churchill. It was held in a barn with a few officers and men of the Coldstream Guards as communicants. During the service a dove flew in and perched on a rafter. The men said it meant that there would soon be peace.

An officer asked me, a little wistfully, how long the war would last. They are out of it all for a week or two guarding the Prime Minister, but they must know that when they go back the odds are against them; that it is just a matter of time. These highly civilized young men, who are so meticulous in the discharge of their duty, feel the utter beastliness of war, though they never speak of it. They have been brought up by their fathers to think that there is no sense in war, that it brings the solution of nothing.’

A third dose of pneumonia

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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.