And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

8 December

Gustave Flaubert,

‘Ascent. Up at five - the first - and wash in front of the tent in the canvas pail. We hear several jackals barking. Ascent of the Great Pyramid, the one to the right (Kheops). The stones, which at a distance of two hundred paces seem the size of paving-blocs, are in reality - the smallest of them - three feet high; generally they come up to our chests. We go up at the left hand corner (opposite the Pyramid of Khephren); the Arabs push and pull me; I am quickly exhausted, it is desperately tiring. I stop five or six times on the way up. Maxime started before me and goes fast. Finally I reach the top.

We wait a good half hour for the sunrise. The sun was rising just opposite; the whole valley of the Nile, bathed in mist, seemed to be a still white sea; and the desert behind us, with its hillocks of sand, another ocean, deep purple, its waves all petrified. But as the sun climbed behind the Arabian chain the mist was torn into great shreds of filmy gauze; the meadows, cut by canals, were like green lawns with winding borders. To sum up: three colors - immense green at my feet in the foreground; the sky pale red - worn vermilion; behind and to the right, a rolling expanse looking scorched and iridescent, with the minarets of Cairo, canges passing in the distance, clusters of palms.’

Flaubert the Realist


Leo Tolstoy,

‘Moscow. I kept this diary only for five days. Now it is five months since last I took it into my hands!

However, let me try to remember what I have done meanwhile, and why I evidently wearied of my then pursuits. During the past period a quiet life in the country has wrought in me a great revolution : my old follies, my old need to interest myself in affairs, have shed their fruit, and I have ceased to frame castles in Spain, and plans which no human capacity could execute. Above all - and it is a conviction most favourable to me - stands the fact that I no longer place reliance upon my own judgment alone, I no longer despise the forms generally accepted of mankind. There was a time when everything ordinary seemed to me unworthy of my notice : whereas now I accept as good and true but few convictions which I have not seen applied and practised by many. It is strange that I should have despised that which constitutes man’s greatest asset, his power of comprehending the convictions of others, and observing in practical execution those convictions! And it is strange that I should have given rein to my judgment without in the least verifying or applying that judgment! In a word, and to put it very simply, I have now come to my senses, I am grown a little older.’

I have been indolent


John Buckley Castieau,
civil servant

‘Nethercott my Head Turnkey complained to me of having been annoyed by an ex-prisoner on Sunday. Nethercott had been to the Woolshed & was returning home when he called at the Alliance Hotel for a drink. Healey a man who some time since was in Gaol for 14 days, there accused him of tyranny & bullied him before several other people, inviting him to fight & daring him to come again down the Creek.

Nethercott is a very respectable man and one who simply complies with the Orders he receives from me. He is very sober & would not I am sure molest or say a disrespectful word to any person unless first insulted. I therefore advised him to summon Healey & he accordingly did so.

Tis a most annoying thing for a Government Officer to have to receive insult when he knows he has merely performed his duty. The cry of ‘Joe’ seems puerile and beyond being cared for by a man of sense but yet as it is intended to insult & annoy, none but the most callous can hear it without getting out of temper or feeling humiliated.’

Barricading the gaol


Henry J. Heinz,

‘Brother John went up to Scott, the dentist, with Atorney John W. Hague to rescue a girl in our employ, as the dentist acted like a crazy man. An article in the city papers gave a statement saying Mr. H., which people took for me, as I am called the pickle man. This is very annoying to me, as `Brother John so often gets into lawsuits, etc., but he is learning that it does not pay.’

Caught in the mustard mill


Natsume Soseki,

‘This morning, my wife accuses me of being totally antisocial. “People come over for Hinakos wake, and you tell them not to bother, that they should just go home. Well, when I die, be sure not to plan any wake for me.” “But in that case the mice will come out in the middle of the night and gnaw at the tip of your nose.” “Fine with me - the pain would bring me back to life!” ’

A giant of Japanese literature


Eric Gill,
sculptor and designer

‘Expt. with dog in eve’

Very beautiful things


Blanche Dugdale,

‘Rob Bernays drove me home. He says Winston was absolutely howled down yesterday, and is in a very chastened mood today, and told him (Rob) that when he put the question he really had not read Baldwin’s Statement!! I think he is done for. In three minutes his hopes of return to power and influence are shattered. But God is once more behind his servant Stanley Baldwin.’

Baffy on Edward’s abdication


James Tiptree, Jr.,

‘Have given up painting for the war. There are two kinds of artists, those who paint during a war, and those who don’t. The second kind is me. There will be something to do soon.’

Sci-fi writer’s double life


Robert W. Brockway,
young man

‘As the dawn came after a long weary nite spent anxiously waiting for Japanese bombers which never came, we got the paper stating that some 340 fellows from Hickam were killed. One of them was probably Tony Mariaschella since he was in the 42d. After a morning spent uneventfully Mother, I, Mrs Haltermann and Mr. Wiley went to the field [Hickam] and got the remainder of our stuff. The British are in it too. A parachutist is up back here somewhere and they couldn’t find him. Hickam Field looked hit but not shattered. Purdin’s house is gutted out. So are several friends’. Auers’ all messed up inside. Probably we will never go there again. Pop is in the hospital [he was there with an unspecified complaint at the time of the raid]. Pres. Roosevelt declared war against Japan today. Under martial law Habeus Corpus is suspended.’

Pearl Harbour diaries


Galeazzo Ciano,

‘A night telephone call from Ribbentrop. He is overjoyed about the Japanese attack on America. He is so happy about it that I am happy with him, though I am not too sure about the final advantages of what has happened. One thing is now certain, that America will enter the conflict and that the conflict will be so long that she will be able to realize all her potential forces. This morning I told this to the King who had been pleased about the event. He ended by admitting that, in the long run, I may be right. Mussolini was happy, too. For a long time he has favored a definite clarification of relations between America and the Axis.’

Normandy to Victory


Soe Hok Gie,

‘I don’t know what’s the matter with me. Since I heard about the death of Kian Fong from Arief last Sunday I have the feeling of being constantly aware of death. I want to say goodbye before leaving for Semeru. With G ---- and H ------, and I also want to spend some time alone with I -----. I suppose this is the influence of Kian Fong’s strange and sudden death.’

Politics is filthy mud


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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.