And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

22 February

1907
Richard Harding Davis,
writer

‘Spent about the worst night of my life. No mattress, no pillow. Not space enough for my own cot. Every insect in the world ate me. After a bath and coffee felt better. It rained heavily until three P. M. Read Pendennis, and loved it. The picture of life at Clavering and Fairoaks, and Dr. Portman and Foker are wonderful. I do not know when I have enjoyed and admired a work so much. For some reason it is all entirely new again. I will read them all now in turn. After rain cleared took my slaves and went after “supplies.” Met a King. I thought he was a witch doctor, and the boys said he was a dancing man. All his suite, wives and subjects followed, singing a song that made your flesh creep. At Hatton and Cookson’s bought “plenty chop” for “boys” who were much pleased. Also a sparklet bottle, some whiskey and two pints of champagne at 7 francs the pint. Blush to own it was demi Sec. Also bacon, jam, milk, envelopes, a pillow. Saw some ivory State had seized and returned. 15 Kilo’s. Some taken from Gomez across street not returned until he gave up half. No reason given Taylor agent H. & C. why returned Apparently when called will come down on the ivory question. Cuthbert Malet, coffee planter, came call on me. Only Englishman still in Service State. Had much to say which did not want printed until he out of country which will be in month or two. Anstrossi has given me side of cabin where there is room for my cot, so expect to sleep.’

Gouty old gentlemen

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1912
Raymond Priestley,
teacher and explorer

‘The worst of a wind is that you can do nothing to it. If you are being annoyed by a man or an animal bigger than yourself, you can at least get on the other side of a fence and throw stones at him or it, but here we are hung up by an infernally cold wind and able to do nothing against it whatever, while it is gradually tearing our tent in pieces. We are all getting less physically fit and feeling the cold more, and this is showing itself by the continual presence of cold feet, and by constant attacks of cramp in different parts of the body. It is to be hoped that the ship is all serene and not blown out north by the wind. Before the gale commenced Levick and Abbott reported that they saw a trail of smoke off the ice tongue, and we therefore think that she may be sheltering in Relief Inlet, but at times like this all of us have strong imaginations. We are all suffering very much, and myself in particular, from an almost intolerable itching of the feet when circulation is restored after they have been very cold. The barometer isn’t much use to us nowadays. As far as I can make out if it goes up it means the gale is going to be stronger, if it goes down the wind is going to increase. When the barometer remains steady the gale remains steady too. Cheerful, isn’t it?’

Vice-chancellor Priestley

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1922
Alex Sabine,
writer

‘Someone told me about Professor Stadnitskii’s statement in his lecture this afternoon to the effect that a country doctor had been eaten up by the starving peasants in one of the outlying districts. Dr. Uroda has corrected the statement: it was a feldsher (a trained male nurse) that had been eaten, at Balakovo. He was a big, portly man, and his patients did not want him to go to waste when he died from some cause or other. A medical friend of Dr. Uroda’s has had an occasion to taste human flesh. Lost in a blizzard in the boundless Novouzensk prairies, he and his companion came across some frozen bodies, probably victims of the same blizzard and, to save themselves, they carved up, cooked, and ate part of them. The doctor stated that the worst part of that experience was the insuperable and uncomfortable craving he and his companion had acquired for human flesh.’ [. . .]

‘A medical inspector of ours, driving through a German village, caught glimpse of a couple of little girls running toward the road. He looked back and saw the girls pick up the fresh, warm horse dung and eat it.’

Jailed for making soap

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1932
Sigmund Freud,
doctor

‘Anna and I have infectious cold’

Anna with Gestapo

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1940
Clifford Odets,
playwright

‘This is the time for opening the play. Harold gave the cast a brief line run-through, but I stayed at home, sleeping, resting, lounging it out against my slowly constricting nerves. Restless, finally, I jumped into the roadster and rode out to Sunnyside to take Bill and Lee to dinner. I chattered away, quite calm, really, to that peculiar point of indifference which comes from having done all that one can do in a situation. We rode into New York and had dinner across the street from the theatre, at Sardi’s. A lot of the people who are going across the show were eating dinner there - it was like running the gauntlet. Stella Adler was there with a party, smoke-eyed and neurotic - usually when you are dying she is more dramatic about the event than you are! Finally I pushed my way through a lot of well-wishing people and went over to the theatre. The cast was in fine shape, quietly making up in their own rooms; no noise, no excitement backstage, things routine and orderly.

The audience was no better or worse than the usual opening night crowd. If anything they were an edge more respectful. Harold I had met outside the theatre for a moment - he was white and tired and was going to see a musical comedy, true to his habit of never attending an opening. I, on the other hand, get a kind of perverse spiteful pleasure from attending an opening. I saw none of the critics but shook hands with several friends.

The performance of the play was tip-top - the cast had never been better. The play suffered from what had always been wrong with it because of a certain lack in the direction - a lack of clear outlining of situations, a lack of building up scenes, a certain missing in places of dramatic intensity. But none of these things was enough to do vital harm to a beautiful show, smooth, powerful and yet tender, fresh, moving, and touching, with real quality in all the parts. But I could see during the first act that the audience was taking it more seriously than it deserved; and I knew that the old thing was here again - the critics had come expecting King Lear, not a small delicate play. It all made me very tired, but at the end I thought to myself that it didn’t matter, for the show was more or less what I intended; it was lovely and fresh, no matter what the critics said. And I knew, too, that if another and unknown writer’s name had been on the script, there would have been critical raves the next day.

People surged backstage after the curtain - they all seemed to have had a good time. There were the usual foolish remarks from many of them - “Enjoyable, but I don’t know why,” etc., etc. Also, a good deal of insincere gushing from a lot of people who would like nothing better than to stick a knife in your ribs. God knows why!

I invited some people down to the house for a drink. Along came the Eislers, Kozlenkos, Bette, Julie [John] Garfield, Boris Aronson, old Harry Carey and his wife, Morris and Phoebe later, Harold, Aaron Copland and Victor [Kraft[, Bobby Lewis and his Mexican woman, etc. etc. We drank champagne, Scotch when the wine ran out, smoked, filthied up the house, listened to some music. Then they went and I dropped into bed, dog-tired, unhappy, drunk, knowing what the reviews would be like in the morning. In and out I slept, in and out of a fever - all of modern twentieth-century life in one day and a night.’

Night music struck down

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1941
Robert Menzies,
politician

‘Winston is completely certain of America’s full help, of her participation in a Japanese war, and of Roosevelt’s passionate determination to stamp out the Nazi menace from the earth. Is he right? I cannot say. If the P.M. were a better listener and less disposed to dispense with all expert or local opinion, I might feel a little easier about it. But there’s no doubt about it; he’s a holy terror - I went to bed tired!’

Churchill grows on me

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1979
Paul K Lyons,
writer

‘Pushing myself to get two or three pages of Crowley’s life written each day. The clickety clack of the typewriter seems to be the secondary thing that I do between the cleaning and the cooking and the talking or the playing. The translation of my imagination into scenes on paper is the most difficult - creating characters, working with them, showing them up through conversations. Then there is the swamp of stage directions that are the length of a novel in themselves. In capital letters stand out bold. And now, with a new ribbon in the clickety-clack machine, their blackness is overwhelming. How can I will myself to work eight-ten hours a day when the ideas run out. I have to search all the books for the next scene or spark of talk. I resort to a cigarette or cup of coffee or leave the house. Today, for example, I went to the Warburg and spent two hours submerged in Crowley in Therion, in The Beast 666, in the Great Hand of Boleskine. I handled some manuscripts typed by Leah Hirsig - ‘Record of the Abbey of Thelema’. She describes in detail the incidents relating to Betty May’s expulsion from the Abbey. It’s perfect. There was also a folder with letters written to and from AC, some about blackmail, money and debts. I touched with care AC’s magical (or drug) record for a period of two weeks at Fontainebleu in March 1922. In intricate detail, he recorded the times and amounts of cocaine and heroin he took. He also recorded conversations with himself, justifying the next dose, and how he felt he should be able to use drugs forever without becoming addicted, but nevertheless intended to wean himself off them. He noted, for example, how he would excuse an extra does of heroin because it soothed his asthma. He does continue to fascinate me, and I would like to get access to more of his papers.’

Do what thou wilt

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1989
Derek Jarman,
director and artist

‘I’ve grown tired of the cinema, the preserve of ambition and folly in pursuit of illusion, or should I say delusion?

Yesterday I was subjected to a barrage of questions for nearly seven hours without a break, my head spinning like a child’s top. I fled. Back home at the flat at Charing Cross Road another enormous pile of letters blocked the door: Would I write? Judge? Give advice? Approve? Help? The phone rings till I find myself running. What happiness has this cacophony brought? And what have I achieved when Pliny’s miraculous villa can vanish with barely a ripple?’

Tired of the cinema

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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, 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.