And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

31 December

1698
Patrick Gordon,
soldier

‘Almighty God be praised for his gracious long suffering towards me in sparing my life so long. Grant, gracious God, that I may make a good use of the time that thou mayest be pleased yet to grant me for repentance. This year I have felt a sensible decrease of health and strength. Yet thy will be done, gracious God!’ [The last entry]

A soldier of fortune

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1844
Barclay Fox,
businessman

‘Here ends the best & most blessed year of my life. It is as tho’ I had reached the goal of my boy-existence & found it but the starting post of a new one. The mountain tops before me show higher then ever & life is becoming a more earnest business with a larger sphere & higher pleasures & deeper responsibilities - no longer alone but blest with the companionship of a noble & pure spirit, with the possession of a deeply-loving heart; how abundantly grateful ought mine to be!’

The day came at last

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1902
Karl von Terzaghi,
engineer and geologist

‘Too many intentions, too little energy. Great phrases, small thoughts. Innumerable books, lack of concentration. The year which I end today, is as each of the proceeding [sic] years, distracted. I spent a part of my time with wandering about in the dark instead of with systematic work. [. . .] However, I must admit that I made quite an imposing piece of progress this year. I have founded my philosophy of life recently through the realization of the moral law in us. I have won by this a measure of regulation and opinion in my way of acting.’

Power of a lion

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1933
Joseph Goebbels,
politician

‘We’ve made it. We’ve set up shop in Wilhelmstrasse. Hitler is chancellor. It’s like a fairy tale come true! He deserved it. Wonderful euphoria. People were going mad below. . . A new beginning! An explosion of popular energy. Bigger and bigger crowds. I spoke on the radio, to every German station. “We are immensely happy,” I said.’

We can conquer the world

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1958
Susan Sontag,
writer

‘On Keeping a Journal. Superficial to understand the journal as just a receptacle for one’s private, secret thoughts - like a confidante who is deaf, dumb and illiterate. In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.

The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather - in many cases - offers an alternative to it.

There is often a contradiction between the meaning of our actions toward a person and what we say we feel toward that person in a journal. But this does not mean that what we do is shallow, and only what we confess to ourselves is deep. Confessions, I mean sincere confessions of course, can be more shallow than actions. [. . .]

Nothing prevents me from being a writer except laziness. A good writer.

Why is writing important? Mainly, out of egotism, I suppose. Because I want to be that persona, a writer, and not because there is something I must say. Yet why not that too? With a little ego-building - such as the fait accompli this journal provides - I shall win through to the confidence that I have something to say, that should be said.

My ‘I’ is puny, cautious, too sane. Good writers are roaring egotists, even to the point of fatuity. Sane men, critics, correct them - but their sanity is parasitic on the creative fatuity of genius.’

Four cafes a night

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2007
Han Feng,
businessman

‘I went with Sha to Xinmeng in the morning. Even more activities were going on. Bought two electric blankets. Ate lunch and came home. Spent the afternoon at home. The year 2007 is over. This is the year in which my work has gone the smoothest ever. The company is growing. The middle-level cadres have worked hard to understand my goals. My authority has grown among the workers. All our missions were accomplished. My income was as much as 200,000 yuan. Next year will be easier. Therefore, I don't care whether I go back to the district bureau. I hope that I can work another couple of years and then return for an easier job at the district bureau. This year, my son has done well and he is being recommended to be a graduate student without even having to take any test. Two years later, he will get a job easily. My photography skills have reached another higher stage, and I will try to keep learning until I grow old. I finally got some women. I hooked up with Xiao Pan. I have fun with Tan Shanfang regularly. I also have fun with Mo Yaodai. I have luck with women this year. But when there are too many women, I have to watch my body health.’

. . . and 50,000 yuan

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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.