And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

5 December

Benjamin Banneker,

‘On the night of the fifth of December 1791, Being a deep Sleep, I dreamed that I was in a public Company, one of them demanded of me the limits of Rassanah Crandolph’s Soul had to display itself in, after it departed from her Body and taken its flight. In answer I desired that he show me the place of Beginning “thinking it like making a Survey of the Land.” He replied I cannot inform you but there is a man about three days journey from Hence that is able to satisfy your demand, I forthwith went to the man and requested of him to inform me place of beginning of the limits that Rasannah Crandolph’s soul had to display itself in, after the Seperation from her Body; who gave me answer, the Vernal Equinox, When I returned I found the Company together and I was able to Solve their Doubts by giving them the following answer Quincunx.’

Looking for a snowbow


Thomas Rumney,

‘A Prayer Day or Thanksgiving on account of Lord Nelson’s Victory. Received a note from Miss Castlehow at my seat in Church by her servant Ruth. Waited on her in consequence of it in the evening at her request. When I spoke to her father concerning matters between her and me, he said he would give her in marrying £500, and with her own etc. she would be at present equal to about £600. He also said her fortune might in time be three times £500 or more - much more, however, said he than I might suppose. I wished him to advance £500 on her wedding, but that he said he could not do, as he had given the rest no more and he wished to serve them all alike. I proposed to Miss C. that she would give up the matter of our engaging to marry, but she objected to that in her father’s presence, and seemed exceedingly affected, and pressed our agreeing about it much, but we parted without doing so.’

Weeding quicks


Henry Pelham-Clinton,

‘The Dissenters have now fairly thrown off the mask, thro’ their organ “the Christian advocate”, they declare the Church of England a nuisance & their determination to obtain what they call their rights - that is a total exemption from all disabilities, & to be free & full participators in every benefit Enjoyed by the present Established Church - There is alas too much to be feared that these miscreants will carry their point & with it falls Religion & Order.’

My courage failed


John Quincy Adams,

‘The House at noon was called to order. . . Van Buren’s message gave me a fit of melancholy for the future fortunes of the republic. Cunning and duplicity pervade every line of it. The sacrifice of the rights or Northern freedom to slavery and the South, and the purchase of the West by the plunder of the public lands, is the combined system which it discloses. It is the system of Jackson’s message of December, 1832, covered with a new coat of varnish.’

Election of a president


William Charles Macready,

‘Dickens brought me his farce, which he read to me. The dialogue is very good, full of point, but I am not sure about the meagreness of the plot. He reads as well as an experienced actor would - he is a surprising man.’

A surprising man


Pierre-Joseph Proudhon,

‘How right I was, in 1843, to cry out against that absurdity of universal suffrage. No, the masses are not and will not for a long time be capable of a good action for themselves.’

The father of anarchism


John Sarsfield Casey,
civil servant

‘Morning dark heavy & inclined for rain - a dead calm - very disagreeable on deck - a thick mist falling. Sailing under a cloud of canvas yet scarcely making any progress.’

The Galtee Boy


Cynthia Asquith,

‘Lunched Bluetooth - he was very sad about Bron and perturbed about political situation. He seemed still to hope that the P.M.’s resignation might be averted. He said, rather reproachfully, that Montagu had secured his position with both parties. He twitted me again with my (according to him) reputed incapacity for loose talk.

I was dining early with Oc for his last night, but he telephoned to say dinner was postponed until 8.45 as the P.M. was in after all and the theatre was abandoned. It was great luck for me to dine at Downing Street on so historic a night. The atmosphere was most electric. The P.M. had sent in his resignation at 7.30 - a fact I was unaware of when I arrived and only gradually twigged. Oc, the Crewes, Eddie, Cis, and Elizabeth and Margot were dining.

I sat next to the P.M. - he was too darling - rubicund, serene, puffing a guinea cigar (a gift from Maud Cunard), and talking of going to Honolulu. His conversation was as irrelevant to his life as ever. Our subjects were my mandrill riddle (which Beb had told to a startled party the other day), and this wonderful brand of cigars. I asked for one to give Beb for Christmas and he gave it to me. Cis afterwards offered me ten shillings for it. I had a great accès of tenderness for the P.M. He was so serene and dignified. Poor Margot on the other hand looked ghastly ill - distraught (no doubt she was, as she always claims, ‘rumbling’) - and was imprecating in hoarse whispers, blackguarding Lloyd George and Northcliffe.

When we first came out Elizabeth, Lady Crewe and I had an à trois - Margot joined us. When the men came out she, Mr Asquith and the Crewes played bridge. Violet came in, bringing with her Mr Norton and Sir Ian Hamilton - the latter to say goodbye to Oc. Of course, the whole evening was spent in conjecture and discussion - most interesting. I tried to absorb as much as I could, but I am not quick about politics. I gathered that, before dinner, Mr Asquith had said he thought there was quite a chance of Lloyd George failing to form a Government at all. The Tories - in urging him to resign - had predicted such a failure. In any case, most people seemed to think that any Government he could succeed in forming would only be very short-lived. Of course Lloyd George would greatly prefer Bonar to be Prime Minister, in order himself to avoid incurring the odium of responsibility. The King had sent for Bonar but, of course, it would be very difficult for him to accept the office on the terms which had made Asquith resign it. The King is alleged to be very terribly distressed and to have said, ‘I shall resign if Asquith does’. The prospective attitude of the Liberal ministers was discussed. Everyone was convinced that not one of them would take office under Lloyd George, with the possible exception of Montagu. Bluetooth had assured me that the latter would, but nearly all the Asquith family repudiated the idea. George had been a very wily, foxy cad, and the Government whips must have been very bad, as apparently the P.M. was very much taken by surprise.

It had been a well-managed plot. According to Margot and others, Northcliffe has been to Lloyd George’s house every day since the beginning of the war, the imputation being that George feeds him with Cabinet information, telling him the next item of the Government programme, so that he is able to start a Press agitation, and thus gain the reputation of pushing the Government into their independently determined course of action. It was said that the F.O. was really Lloyd George’s ambition, and during the last weeks he has been going to the Berlitz School and reading histories of the Balkans. I believe the French like him, but he is loathed in Russia and Italy. He has had to cart Winston - whose exclusion was, I believe, one of Bonar’s conditions. Certainly one cannot imagine a crazier executive titan George, Carson, and Bonar, Of course, it would virtually be only George.

Was it my last dinner at Downing Street? I can’t help feeling very sanguine and thinking the P.M. will be back with a firmer seat in the saddle in a fortnight. I only hope to God he is - disinterestedly because I really think him the only eligible man. Incidentally, what could happen to all our finances I daren’t think! Certainly it is a most painfully interesting situation - deeply to be deplored at this juncture I think - and it’s rather disgusting that such seething intrigue should survive war atmosphere.

Oc saw me off in the tube. Very sad to say goodbye and he had a tear in his eye. Lost my head and passed through Charing Cross three times owing to political excitement. Got home very late. Talked to Papa. The P.M. said The Volunteer was incomparably the best war poem.’

Rubicund, serene, puffing


Edwin Montagu,

‘To-day we have had the usual weary round - deputations from various Moslem bodies this morning, the Moslem Association, the Moslem League, and so on, and this afternoon we have had two deputations from Assam.

The Moslem Association pretends to be more conservative than the Moslem League, but submitted an appendix to its suggestions, which was really just as extreme. They were very nice people, and explained that we were to take no notice of the appendix, which really did not represent their views.

The Moslem League was very, very vehement, and I had a long and interesting argument - because he was a very intelligent man - with one of their members, Aminur Rahman, who is certainly very sincere, and does not see any of the difficulties of the Congress Moslem League scheme. He certainly helped me to come nearer to responsible government.’

Montagu and the Indian tiger


Odd Nansen,

‘The day before yesterday, when we were just leaving work, there came an order that everyone was to fall in instantly for counting. A man had been missed. It turned out to be a prisoner in the next squad who had hanged himself somewhere in the woods. As soon as that fact was ascertained, all was forgotten and in order. They had the correct total - including a corpse, which was fetched and driven up on a cart to be counted in!

On the same day the man in charge of the shoe factory, a Hauptsturmführer, was arrested for swindling on a large scale. He had had ten thousand pairs of shoes burned to wipe out the traces of his fraud. For the shoes were property stolen from murdered Jews, and he had had them cut up on his own behalf, to secure the ornaments and currency they contained. How much he found is not known, but from previous experience one may safely reckon that immense sums are involved. The man was arrested not for embezzling the valuables but for burning the footwear! Many prisoners, who were employed in the shoe factory and carried out his orders, have been up for questioning, and the case is apparently brewing up to great dimensions. If only it gets big enough, no doubt it will be shelved and stifled. For if that splits open, everything will split. All are implicated in some swindle or other, and that binds them all together in a kind of freemasonry.

Yesterday a prisoner was shot in an attempt to escape. A poor wretch of a Pole, who had first attempted to hang himself. I suppose he could stand no more. Well, so he found peace, and that was doubtless what he longed for.

Every day prisoners are being brought here from Berlin, and they are shot at once. There were eleven yesterday, seven the day before, etc. What they had been guilty of we don’t know, but most probably they had been stealing, looting, and exploiting the situation in burning Berlin. Last night we had another raid.’

What darkens prison life


Alasdair Maclean,

I came today to a corner on the seaward edge of the dunes where a mummified thistle, one of last summer’s crop, still held its form against rain and gale. It was not a Carline Thistle, so attractive and about here so rare. These commonly survive as husks sometimes well into the next season. This fellow was an ordinary Spear Thistle, brown and shrunken, like an old man dead in all but will. It might have been nature’s master copy, struggling to preserve the idea of a thistle for the next generation of plants. Two or three of its heads lolled brokenly in the wind, yet its spikes stuck out more prominently than ever from its withered leaves. I thought of a cornered dog, retracting its gums the better to show its teeth. How admirable it was, how puritanically beautiful! I stood beside it for a long time, studying it and trying to fix it in my mind.’

An antiphonal chorus


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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.

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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.

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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.