And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

14 February

1685
John Evelyn,
writer

‘The King [Charles II had died on 6 February] was this night very obscurely buried in a vault under Henry VII’s Chapel at Westminster, without any manner of pomp, and soon forgotten after all this vanity, and the face of the whole Court was exceedingly changed into a more solemn and moral behavior; the new King [James II] affecting neither profaneness nor buffoonery. All the great officers broke their staves over the grave, according to form.’

A most excellent person

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1699
Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville,
sailor and explorer

‘I continue to follow the tracks of the Indians, having left at the place where I spent the night two axes, four knives, two packages of glass beads, a little vermillion; for I was sure that two Indians who came at sunrise to watch me from a distance of 300 yards would come there after we left. [. . .] I noticed a canoe crossing over to an island and several Indians waiting for it there. They joined five other canoes, which crossed over to the land to the north. As the land where I was was separated from them by a bay 1 league wide and 4 leagues long, I got into my canoe and pursued the canoes and overtook them as they were landing on the shore. All the Indians fled into the woods, leaving their canoes and baggage [. . .] I found an old man who was too sick to stand. We talked by means of signs. I gave him food and tobacco; he made me understand that I should build a fire for him. This I did and, besides, made a shelter, near which I placed him along with his baggage and a number of bags of Indian corn and beans that the Indians had in their canoes. I made him understand that I was going half a league from there to spend the night. My longboat joined me there. I sent my brother and two Canadians after the Indians who had fled, to try to make them come back or to capture one. Toward evening he brought a woman to me whom he had caught in the woods 3 leagues from there. I led her to the old man and left her, after giving her several presents and some tobacco to take to her men and have them smoke.’

Dried bear’s meat

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1865
Frances (Fanny) Seward,
young woman

‘I remember running back, crying out ‘Where’s Father?,’ seeing the empty bed. At the side I found what I thought was a pile of bed clothes - then I knew that it was Father. As I stood my feet slipped in a great pool of blood. Father looked so ghastly I was sure he was dead, he was white & very thin with the blood that had drained from the gashes about his face & throat. Fred was in the room till after Father was placed on the bed. Margaret says she heard me scream ‘O my God! Father’s dead.’ I remember that Robinson came instantly, &: lifting him, said his heart still beat - & he, with or without aid, laid him on the bed. Notwithstanding his own injuries Robinson stood faithfully at Father’s side, on the right hand - I did not know what should be done. Robinson told me everything - about staunching the blood with cloths & water. He applied them on the right side, & I, kneeling on the bed, on the left, put them on a wound on that side of the neck. Father seemed to me almost dead, but he spoke to me, telling me to have the doors closed, & send for surgeons, & to ask to have a guard placed around the house. [. . .]

It was then that I first heard about the President, one of the gentlemen telling Mother that he was shot. As this group stood there Father related in a clear, distinct manner, his recollections of the whole scene - between each word he drew breath, as one dying might speak, & I feared the effort might cost his remaining strength. I think we gave him tea in the night - at his own request. I was in constant apprehension of some fatal turn in his symptoms.’

Lincoln and Fanny Seward

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1897
Isabella Augusta Persse Gregory,
playwright

‘Westminster Abbey - Eyton - Dinner here - W. B. Yeats - Sir H. H. & Lady Johnston - Sophie Lyall - Alfred Cole - Barry O’Brien - Sir A. Clay - Very pleasant, at least I enjoyed it myself very much, liking them all - & they got on well - An argument at dinner as to who Conan Doyle had meant in a speech the night before by “the greatest man this century has produced.” B. O’Brien was for Napoleon, Sir H. Darwin - Yeats for Goethe - A. Cole stirring them all up - but as none wd agree on the premisses, I had to intervene at last -’

Yeats very charming

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1949
Joe Randolph Ackerley,
writer

‘A dreadful, dreadful week of worry and self-torment. I have not been able to sleep at night without aspirins, and only patchily then. It has gradually emerged, from phone conversations with Brodie, that Nancy’s present condition is little better than that of a lunatic, that she can hardly walk or hold her water, has gone quite out of her mind. She is having this electrical convulsion treatment. Dr Brodie would not let me see her; he told me that he would send me word when I might go if I would keep in touch with him.

Alas, in my guilty mind, I see what happened as surely as though I had deliberately willed it to come to pass. She has been accusing me lately of never being the same, as always being different whenever she sees me; and of course it is true. I am deeply attached to her, my sister, in my way, and in emergencies, when I am deeply touched by her, or frightened for her, as when I took my letter down to Worthing after Haywards Heath, or burst into tears in Worthing Hospital, or saw her, so gentle and sweet in Chichester, I can love her and am ready to do or promise anything. But then I leave her, and remember the past, and become worried and anxious, and see, for instance, old Bunny, quietly and uncomplainingly packing up her gear to go and live elsewhere, and my consideration and affection or feeling turn elsewhere, or simply withdraws, and Nancy sees it going, and feels it gone.’

Ackerley and his women

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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, 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.