And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

28 December

John Rutty,

‘Attended a burial, on principle, where I trod on the graves of several of my associates. Surely, the sight of one corpse is a stronger argument than any words can possibly be! even of thy own mortality, and of the necessity of a preparation for it.’

A vicious feast


Mirza Abul Hassan Khan,

‘Because I was feeling bilious and sad, Sir George Ouseley took me out to a place called Hyde Park: it is a vast open field, which in spring becomes a flower-garden with green lawns two miles square. Paths surround it, where men and women may walk for pleasure and relaxation. Other paths are reserved for horse-riders and carriages.

It happened that my horse shied and I almost fell to the ground; but my mehmandar [official guide/escort] skilfully managed to control it. He said that tomorrow he would arrange for me to have a gentler mount. They have truly splendid horses in England; but it is a pity they clip short their manes and tails.’

I was utterly amazed!


Henry Crabb Robinson,

‘The papers to-day are full of the snow-storm. The ordinary mails were stopped in every part of the country.’

Weeds don’t spoil


George Brinton McClellan,

‘Crossed the stream before sunrise under orders to move on with the Tennessee horse one day in advance of the column in order to repair a very bad ford at the next watering place - Las Chomeras. Very tiresome and fatiguing march of about 22 miles. Road pretty good, requiring a few repairs here and there. Water rather brackish. Very pretty encampment. Stream about 20 yards wide and 18 inches deep. No bread and hardly any meat for supper.’

McClellan’s war in Mexico


Alfred Doten,

‘A few light shocks . . . Evening at home till 9 - went down town - snowing - Went up in Enterprise office & chatted with Dan awhile - He is all right, and went to work on the local again yesterday morning . . . Bed at 11 - still snowing - [erasure] -’

Plenty of ladies at the ball


Alfred von Waldersee,

‘An excellent measure has been taken in hand during these last two days. The management of the attack on Paris, which is now to be undertaken in real earnest, has been entrusted to Lieut.-General von Kameke in his capacity as an Engineer, and to Major-General Kraft zu Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen as an Artillerist. Now at last some life will be introduced into things. . .’

Kaiser behind the haystack


George Whitwell Parsons,
lawyer and banker

‘Was much provoked at Capt H this AM and told I was sorry to have ever met him. I have stood more than any of his friends and have had enough. Was quite short with him. Hohstadt cannot seem to get him out of town. Every liquor saloon is a stumbling block. Bad times in office too. I wish whiskey was all poured in gutter.

Tonight about 11:30 Doc G had just left and I tho’t couldn’t have crossed the street - when four shots were fired in quick succession from very heavily charged guns, making a terrible noise and I tho’t were fired under my window under which I quickly dropped, keeping the dobe wall between me and the outside till fusilade was over. I immediately tho’t Doc had been shot and fired in return, remembering a late episode and knowing how pronounced he was on the Earp-Cow-boy question. He had crossed through and passed Virgil Earp who crossed to west side of 5th and was fired upon when in range of my window by men 2 or 3 concealed in the timbers of the new 2 story adobe going up for the Huachuca Water Co. He did not fall, but recrossed to the Oriental and was taken from there to the Cosmopolitan being hit with buck shot and badly wounded in left arm with flesh wound above left thigh.

Cries of ‘there they go’, ‘head them off’ were heard but the cowardly apathetic guardians of the peace were not inclined to risk themselves and the other brave men all more or less armed did nothing. Doc had a close shave. Van and I went to the hospital for Doc and got various things. Hotel well guarded, so much so that I had hard trouble to get to Earps room. He was easy. Told him I was sorry for him. ‘It’s hell, isn’t it!’ said he. His wife was troubled, ‘Never mind, I’ve got one arm left to hug you with,’ he said.’

Gunfight at OK Corral


Robert Earl Henri,

‘I do not think time spent at a good theatre is wasted. Good actors can present to the artist’s eye scenes that in life are only once in a lifetime.’

Make the draperies move


Kathleen Scott,

‘I came back from Vickers to find the PM had been twice. He wrote later saying he had tramped the streets waiting for me, as he was “in great need of me”. I did wish I hadn’t been out. However he came again the next evening. There is great dissension in the cabinet about conscription [Asquith was trying to introduce conscription for single men because not enough of them had volunteered for him to be able to to keep his promise not to make married men join up] and today McKenna [Reginald, Chancellor of the Exchequer], Runciman [President of the Board of Trade], Grey [Foreign Secretary] and John Simon [Home Secretary] have all resigned. He showed me the letters - Grey’s stupid and selfish, I thought - 2 sheets saying that as close friends of his were leaving, he must too; that his eyes are bad, and he had thought of resigning before. A childish effusion, but saying that he had not conspired with his friend Runciman. Simon’s letter was a very dear nice letter, brokenhearted at having to abandon the PM but convinced that forcing anyone is wrong. Runciman and McKenna were excited and not very nice; McK saying we couldn’t afford the enlarging army and Runciman saying he couldn’t spare the men from industry - as the PM pointed out this is not the moment to discuss either issue. The compulsion of unmarried men does not fix the size of the army, not [sic] does it prevent the staying of those requisite for trade. The PM was very very sad, he said he had come to me for two things, 1) wisdom 2) sympathy. I told him I could dispense the second but not the first, however I was awfully touched and flattered. He said I was one of the only discreet women he’d ever met, and told me I helped him enormously. That night he wrote me a little letter saying I made “all the difference”. Poor darling how he hates these tussles.’

Kathleen Scott as diarist


Aldo Leopold,

‘Explored the Crack Canyon region for the first time. Saw a large number of deer and the country looks very workable. No turkey sign.’

The sweetest fish ever eaten


Harold Nicolson,
politician and writer

‘Feeling much better. I do a Spectator article on keeping diaries, in which I lay down the rule that one should write one’s diary for one’s great-grandson. I think that is a correct rule. The purely private diary becomes too self-centred and morbid. One should have a remote, but not too remote, audience.

The Russians continue to nibble at the German lines. In Libya we are ‘mopping up’, but it is not clear what has really happened. The public seem to have lost all interest in Libya.

For one’s great-grandson


Paul K. Lyons,

‘On Christmas Day, we did make one short call, across the road to see Alice and Dan. It was their 60th wedding anniversary - they married on Christmas day in 1933 at St Peters Church, down the road. And they have lived in that house opposite almost all that time. I do find it quite amazing. Dan has not been well, but the two of them were perky and holding court to many friends in the street who were popping in to see the telegram they had received from the Queen. Oh they were so proud, but they had not yet opened it. They were waiting to open it with some of their family on Boxing Day, even though Christmas Day was the day, but they forgot to take it with them and thus missed the pleasure they had been looking forward to. On Monday Alice popped over to show us the open telegram. It wasn’t signed (of course telegrams are never signed - why doesn’t she send cards with photos of Buck Palace and a reproduced signature?) but Alice was still as pleased as punch with it. Apparently, in order to get a telegram, someone has to send the details in good time to the Palace so they can be checked out. At least you don’t have to pay for them, yet.’

The Queen and I


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And so made significant . . .
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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.

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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.