And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

20 February

1811
Henry Martyn,
missionary

‘Mr C_, the chaplain for Surat, called on me. I talked very freely with him about the views of the Bible Society, the duty of labouring for the natives, and in short, almost every subject connected with the ministry. He was very candid, and showed a simplicity and gravity that pleased me much. At four went to dine at Mr B_'s. A religious discussion took place at dinner, which lasted the whole time I was there; the Advocate-General chose to express his incredulity respecting eternal punishment, which Mr B controverted, but in so prolix a way, though on the whole well-directed, that it did not appear convincing, so I took upon myself to consider the chief points of discussion; freedom of discussion produced great familiarity, insomuch that I ventured to give him advice about the necessity of praying and keeping the sabbath, &c. and acting up to the light that he had received, that he might receive more, proving to him that in the gospel, the apparent severity of God in punishing sin, appeared reconcilable with the exercise of mercy.’

My unprofitable life

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1859
Aleksandr Nikitenko,
teacher and writer

‘The minister of education summoned me for a talk. I arrived at 1 o’clock.

“The matter of your appointment to the Press Committee,” the minister said to me, “has taken a rather serious and delicate turn. The emperor has expressed his desire for your appointment, and now I am conveying his wish to you. Count Adlerberg has informed me about it.”

“Yes,” I replied, “this really puts me in an awkward position. I am prepared to undertake any kind of work which would offer at least some hope for a cause which means so much to me as learning and literature. But if this committee was created for the moral supervision of literature, as its members claim it was, there are no grounds for its existence and it doesn’t have a leg to stand on. If it is going to turn into a secret committee, it is standing on muddy ground and I don’t want to soil myself on it.”

We talked about it for a long time and finally I promised Evgraf Petrovich that I would try my best to change this whole situation for the better.

While we were discussing this, Mukhanov arrived, and I immediately got involved in a conversation with him on this issue.

Mukhanov tried to prove to me that the committee had no reactionary intentions; that it did not have anything in common with the Committee of April 2; that the emperor was certainly not interested in creating a similar apparatus.

“Personally, Your Excellency,” I replied, “I am not worried about it becoming another Committee of April 2, because I think that’s impossible. I consider the very thought of it repugnant to the spirit of our times as well as an insult to our enlightened emperor. But I can’t hide the fact from you that the public is very prejudiced against this new committee.” ’

Making of a Russian censor

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1915
Charles de Foucauld,
priest

‘The south of Tripoli is disturbed; Saint-Léger and 200 or 300 soldiers are on the frontier, to prevent bands in revolt against the Italians from breaking into our territory. Only one French adjutant and six or seven native soldiers remain at Fort Motylinski. This adjutant is a capital fellow. We often write to each other, but we rarely see one another; being alone, he cannot leave his post, and I, having a great deal to do, cannot move from here without serious reason. I have not been to Fort Motylinski for two years.’

From playboy to ascetic

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1934
Aleksander Rodchenko,
artist

‘Yesterday I was at the Press House with Zhenia . . .

The question is coming up bluntly, either live with her once and for all or say good-bye, PART. She’ll want to go visiting, to go to parties for the evening, and I need to work seriously; 26-43, it’s mathematics. Its reality.’

Photos to surprise and amaze

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1941
Barbara Pym,
writer

‘This evening I was looking for a notebook in which to keep a record of dreams and I found this diary, this sentimental journal or whatever you (Gentle Reader in the Bodleian) like to call it. Perhaps it is hardly a diary, for I keep a bald record of everyday happenings in a neat little book which has a set space for every day. And I write in this book only when the occasion seems to demand it. In the spring, when I think of past loves like Jay or when something momentous happens, like the invasion of Holland and Belgium (but not when France gave in - perhaps I’d got used to shocks by then. Now all I remember is sitting in deck chairs on the lawn with Hilary, the garden full of sweet williams.

It hasn’t been such a bad winter as last, although there has been all the frightful bombing. We’ve have sirens too and a few bumps in the distance (in August) but nothing worse than long nights at the First Aid Post, smoking, knitting, talking, eating and trying to sleep in the stuffy air, covered with scratchy Army blankets.

I have been doing quite a lot of writing lately which is satisfying and pleases me if nobody else. I have also been improving my mind - I’ve read Jane Austen - Emma most lately, Scott - Redgauntlet, Johnson’s Tour in the Hebrides with Boswell - I’ve had a Scottish craze lately. At the Tented Camp I grew fond of a young soldier who had been a waiter in many of the best Scottish hotels - LMS on the china, stags’ heads and palms. Anyway, because of that, or for some more subtle reason, I took to listening to the news in Gaelic and poring over maps of the West Highlands.

I’ve also read Vanity Fair, after hearing it as a serial on the wireless. That marvellous Waterloo chapter was especially appropriate this summer although I had nobody in France or at Dunkirk. But perhaps one could almost enjoy it for that reason - only enjoy isn’t at all the word.

This very evening on which I’ve written all this I was looking among my books and took out John Piper’s Shell Guide to Oxfordshire. I went all through it, a nostalgic pilgrimage in churches and churchyards - most of which I have never seen at all but shall one day - and lingered over the view of Blenheim’s park and lake by which are quoted some favourite lines of Matthew Arnold from Thyrsis.’

A small square of ivory

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1947
Charles Ritchie,
diplomat

‘V happy with E. We have spent the weekend huddled over the weak radiator and the whiskey bottle or on the enormous ‘made for love’ bed. It’s like life on board ship, we sally out on the windswept deck-like boulevards for a ‘blow’ and are glad to be back in this cabin-like flat - which more than anything else is like a suite on a luxury liner.’

V happy with E

**************************************************************************************

1970
Ferdinand E. Marcos,
politician

‘But Romulo is getting senile. That note of his in answer to the stiff protest of the Americans was off the beam. It speaks of there being valid ground for the attacks against the Americans and the Americans to ponder on the solution of the problems between the two countries. I have to replace Romulo soon. This is not the way to treat a wounded ally.’

Philippine hero’s birth date

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1979
Paul K Lyons,
writer

‘ ‘The Beast’ by Snoo Wilson was initially commissioned by the RSC almost a decade ago. In its original form it was nothing more than a farce but now it’s been extensively rewritten so that the bulk of the play takes place at the Abbey of Thelema. On entering the Bush theatre I was agreeable surprised to see a set much as the one I had imagined for my own play about Aleister Crowley. All the action takes place outside the rundown barn-temple. The acting was first class, although the writing and direction left little room for the characters to be truly difficult or even unlikeable. John Stride playing Crowley refused to shave his head but would have given a better and truer performance if had.’

Do what thou wilt

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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.

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.

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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.