And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

18 February

955
Ki no Tsurayuki,
writer

‘The rain was gently falling at daybreak, but it soon stopped, and then the men and women together went down to a suitable place in the vicinity and had a hot bath. Looking out over the sea, he composed this verse:

Overhead the clouds
Look to me like rippling waves;
Were the fishers here,
Which is sea, and which is sky?
I would ask, and they’d reply

Well, as it was after the tenth day, the moon was particularly beautiful. All these days, since first he set foot aboard ship, he had never worn his handsome bright scarlet costume, because he feared to offend the God of the Sea; yet . . .’

The earliest literary diary

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1811
Henry Martyn,
missionary

‘Came to anchor at Bombay. This day I finish the 30th year of my unprofitable life, an age in which Brainerd [an American missionary to Native Americans who, as it happens, also died as a young man] had finished his course. He gained about a hundred savages to the gospel, I can scarcely number the twentieth part. If I cannot act, and rejoice, and love with the ardour some did, oh, let me at least be holy, and sober, and wise. I am now at the age, &c.’

My unprofitable life

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1837
Gideon Mantell,
doctor and fossil hunter

‘Lecture at the Old Ship, on the South Downs - pretty good company. On my own account, because the Council were unwilling to take the chance of loss!!! During the last fortnight received a splendid collection of Elephantine and remains from Capt. Cautley, Sub-Himalayah mountains, discoursed on them last Tuesday at the Conversazione - about 6 members of the Institution present.’

Gideon Mantell - geologist

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1851
Henry Crabb Robinson,
lawyer

‘At Masquerier’s, Brighton. We had calls soon after breakfast. The one to be mentioned was that of [Michael] Faraday, one of the most remarkable men of the day, the very greatest of our discoverers in chemistry, a perfect lecturer in the unaffected simplicity and intelligent clearness of his statement; so that the learned are instructed and the ignorant charmed. His personal character is admirable. When he was young, poor, and altogether unknown, Masquerier was kind to him; and now that he is a great man he does not forget his old friend.’

Weeds don’t spoil

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1915
Romain Rolland,
writer

‘Hermann Hesse publishes in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Abendblatt) an article on a new German review. Die Weissen Blatter of Leipzig, which is reissued after an interruption of several months. Germany’s generation of young poets expresses itself in this journal. Hesse calls attention to their great serenity. One of its contributors, the Alsatian Ernst Stadler, has been killed. A lecturer at the Free University in Brussels, translator and friend of French poets, he was supposed to go to Canada last September to teach. He was thirty years old. Hesse compares the journal’s Europeanism to mine. He doesn’t see in it an isolated exception, but the early flowering of the Europeanism that is latent in the best German youth. Among the most gifted of these young writers, Hesse mentions Werfel, Stemheim, Schickele, Ehrenstein.’

Love of humanity

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1918
Ivan Bunin,
writer

‘Beginning February 1st we have been ordered to observe new style. So according to the Soviets, it is now February 18th.

Yesterday there was a meeting “Wednesday [a literary group]. Many of the “young people” were there. Mayakovsky behaved rather decently most of the time, though he kept acting like a lout, strutting about and shooting off his mouth. He was wearing a shirt without a tie. The collar of his jacket was raised up for some reason, just like those poorly shaven people who live in wretched hotel rooms and use public latrines in the mornings.’

Flying into an abyss

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1934
Aleksander Rodchenko,
artist

‘Today I began to paint the circus tor myself, and thought: What if I painted the first painting, the circus, in black and pink, huge and complicated, 200 x 120cm, and then the Dinamo stadium: gray and green.

Zhenia called, wants me to come shoot something tomorrow. I feel like going off somewhere tomorrow. Alone. Neither with her nor without her. . .

I want to print all the “Leftorvo,” “Dinamo,” “Park of Culture and Leisure” [photos}. I’m forty-two, and it’s terrible . . .

I’m reading about Courbet, he worked like an ox.’

Photos to surprise and amaze

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1935
Eva Braun,
secretary

‘Yesterday he came quite unexpectedly, and we had a delightful evening.

The nicest thing is that he is thinking of taking me from the shop and - but I had better not get excited about it yet - he may give me a little house. I simply must not let myself think about it. It would be marvelous. I wouldn’t have to open the door to our “beloved customers,” and go on being a shopgirl. Dear God, grant that this may really happen not in some far-off time, but soon. [. . .]

I am so infinitely happy that he loves me so much, and I pray that it will always be like this. It won’t be my fault if he ever stops loving me.

I am so terribly unhappy that I cannot write to him. These notes must serve as the receptacle of my lamentations.

He came on Saturday. Saturday evening there was the Town Ball. Frau Schwarz gave me a box, so I absolutely had to go after I had accepted. Well, I spent a few wonderfully delightful hours with him until 12 o’clock and then with his permission I spent two hours at the ball.

On Sunday he promised I could see him. I telephoned to the Osteria and left a message with Werlin to say that I was waiting to hear from him. He simply went off to Feldafing, and refused Hoffmann’s invitation to coffee and dinner. I suppose there are two sides to every question. Perhaps he wanted to be alone with Dr. G., who was here, but he should have let me know. At Hoffmann’s I felt I was sitting on hot coals, expecting him to arrive every moment.

In the end we went to the railroad station, as he suddenly decided he would have to go. We were just in time to see the last lights of the train disappearing. Once again Hoffmann left the house too late, and so I couldn’t even say good-bye to him. Perhaps I am taking too dark a view, I hope I am, but he is not coming again for another two weeks. Until then I’ll be miserable and restless. I don’t know why he should be angry with me. Perhaps it is because of the ball, but he did give his permission.

I am racking my brains to find out why he left without saying good-bye to me.

The Hoffmanns have given me a ticket for the Venetian Night this evening, but I am not going. I am much too miserable.’

He loves me so much

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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

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