And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

31 December

Patrick Gordon,

‘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


John Newton,
sailor and priest

‘The comforts, the trials of another year finished, and can be repeated no more. It has been to me a year of great mercy and great sinfulness. Many proofs of the Lord’s goodness, and of the evil of my own heart has it afforded. [Referring to the fact that he had come to the end of the second volume of his diary] It is now more than sixteen years since I began to write in this book. How many scenes have I passed through in that time, - by what a way has the Lord led me! - what wonders has He shown me! My book is now nearly full, and I shall provide another for the next year. O Lord, accept my praise for all that is past. Enable me to trust Thee for all that is to come, and give a blessing to all who may read these records of Thy goodness and my own vileness. Amen and Amen.’

The extraordinary Mr Newton


Barclay Fox,

‘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


Alfred Doten,

‘Clear & pleasant - As usual - got up my mining report - Home at 5½ (No earthquake shocks worth speaking of today - or last night) - Went to Shaney’s and got a pair of pants and a vest I have had made for Morton - out of blanket cloth, snuff colored - heavy - Cost $18 - got them this morning, & this evening took them to Woodruff to be forwarded together with a hat & other fixins that Mrs M sends him - I went down to Theater - Johnny Thompson’s Benefit - Slim house - Waited till show was over & collected the bills of the News - $17 - Home at 11 - took Mrs M to 4’s Ball at Athletic Hall - Best ball I have attended on the coast - good hall full - a little crowded at first - but thinned out after supper - Plenty of ladies - Enjoyed it very much - Danced every quadrille till after 4 oclock - Left at 4½ for home - Bed at 5 - [erasure] - clear & freezing - “Happy new Year” - No paper till next Monday -’

Plenty of ladies at the ball


Georgy Feodosevich Voronoy,

‘True to the old custom, today, on the eve of New Year, I cast a glance at how I have lived through and deeply felt the Old Year. The first thing which I gladly note and which has become a harbinger of my future happiness is: Olia loves me. I know it now for certain! How happy I am! So long I had been silently suffering from doubts, and at last it has been clarified, and I have already become Olia’s fiancé! ...

Yes, now I know well that Olia loves me, but nevertheless lasting doubts and expectations have brought some bitterness. I seem to have become hardened in my permanent solitude. Ever growing passion for Mathematics has developed in me an egotism of no small degree. I am afraid I cannot feel strongly and surrender fully to my feelings.

As for me the mind comes ahead always and everywhere. And the worldly wisdom, known from books, is saying that mind and love can scarcely be reconciled. That is what makes me fear sometimes that Olia probably will not be happy with me. As for me, I shall probably always take refuge in Mathematics.’

Refuge in numbers


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


Joseph Goebbels,

‘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


Jim Elliot,

‘A month of temptation. Satan and the flesh have been on me hard. How God holds my soul in His life and permits one with such wretchedness to continue in His service I cannot tell. Oh, it has been hard . . . I have been very low inside me struggling and casting myself hourly on Christ for help. Marriage is divorce from the privacy a man loves, but there is some privacy nothing can share. It is the knowledge of a sinful heart.

These are the days of the New Year’s believers’ conference on the Sermon on the Mount. Yesterday I preached and was helped on “whoever looks on a woman . . .”!

“Let spirit conquer though the flesh conspire.” ’

Massacre in Ecuador


Susan Sontag,

‘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


Michael Palin,
comedian and writer

‘Harold Nicolson used to sum up his year on December 31st with a few pithy words. It’s a sort of diary writer’s reward for all those dull July 17ths and October 3rds. (Will I still be keeping my diary on Dec. 3Ist 1999? Now that’s the kind of thought which gives survival a new urgency.)

1971 was my fifth full year in television and certainly on the face of it we have achieved a lot. A TV series, which has reached the sort of national notoriety of TW3. ‘Monty Python’, ‘Silly Walks’, ‘And Now For Something Completely Different’, etc, have become household words. The TV series has won several awards during the year, including the Silver Rose of Montreux. The second Monty Python album has sold over 20,000 copies since release in October, and Monty Python’s Big Red Book completely sold out of both printings within two weeks. It has sold 55,000 copies, and 20,000 more are being printed for February. In London it was top of the bestseller lists. And finally the film which we made a year ago and were so unhappy about, looks like being equally successful.

From all this no-one can deny that Monty Python has been the most talked about TV show of 1971 - and here is the supreme irony, for we have not, until this month, recorded any new shows since October 1970.

The split between John and Eric and the rest of us has grown a little recently. It doesn’t prevent us all from sharing - and enjoying sharing - most of our attitudes, except for attitudes to work. It’s the usual story - John and Eric see Monty Python as a means to an end - money to buy freedom from work. Terry J is completely the opposite and feels that Python is an end in itself - i.e. work which he enjoys doing and which keeps him from the dangerous world of leisure. In between are Graham and myself.’

Cleese, also in a bikini


Max Bygraves,
singer and presenter

‘Today we say farewell to 1996 - tomorrow a brand new year. I am going for my last swim of ’96 as soon as I have made this entry in my large new desk diary one of the nicest I have ever had. It reminds me of that large five-year diary that my father gave me on the day I joined the RAF back in 1940. It is on moments like these that his words come back to me: “Anything worth remembering, jot down! You’ll never regret it.”

When he eventually died, almost 20 years ago, we continually discovered old Woodbine packets and small bits of paper with the day’s events, neatly dated and written down in his own particular brand of shorthand: “Feb 19 - Tram strike, w Bellamys. ND hand plast - mend pumps”. Deciphered, this read: “There was a tram strike and so I walked to Bellamy’s Wharf. There was no work (ND - nothing doing). His hand was in plaster but he managed to do a repair job on his boots (mend pumps)”.

I have two regrets and may possibly do something about them in 1997. One is that I should have learned shorthand, and the other is to type as competently as Jennifer, my assistant. To her it comes as easy as ABC. I write in long-hand, pass it to her and, shortly afterward, she hands me a pristine copy. I never cease to marvel at lyrics that I have dashed off in a way that sometimes even I can’t read - and yet Jennifer nonchalantly hands them back to me complete and neat - and I am so impressed! I look at my scribble, which is now beautifully typed, and think what a genius I am, thank you Jennifer ... and your word-processor!

The old year is going with a flourish. The plants and bushes have never looked more radiant. In full bloom, the tippichina trees and poincianas make the grounds here at Attunga Park into a wonderland. It is hard to stand at the entrance and not feel the poem that has been carved in stone in so many gardens all around the world. I read the words by the bird bath that Bloss put in place more than five years ago ...

The kiss of the sun for pardon.
The song of the birds for mirth.
You are nearer God’s heart in a garden,
Than anywhere else on earth.

I once asked a gardener who had written those words, but it seems that it was by that writer named Anonymous. It’s a shame to think of all the pleasure his or her words have given and yet have to miss out on the copyright!

It is hot - 85 degrees - not a bird in sight it is much cooler to stay in the trees. Now and again a crow squawks. The news is that Europe is experiencing the worst winter in a decade with quite a few old people dying. The protest marches in Belgrade have dwindled because the rebels can’t face the cold - and I feel so very lucky and humble that I am in a profession that allows me to travel away from all those tribulations. Mind you, we still have to watch out for sunburn, skin cancer, mosquito bites, snakes and so on, but there are few places that I would rather be.

When you are used to Christmas and the New Year being all that winter wonderland stuff that the traditional Christmas cards portray, it comes as a bit of a culture shock to spend that time in Australia. Gone are the robins, the log fires and the gentle snowflakes - instead there are parrots, barbecues and the sort of sunshine that enables you to fry eggs on the rocks. There are, of course, exceptions to even Australia’s beautiful weather.

Planted some tomatoes


Han Feng,

‘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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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.