And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

24 February

Thomas Gyll,

‘The lady of George Bowes, esq., one of the knights of the shire for the county of Durham, was brought to bed of a daughter at his house in London. She was the only daughter of Thomas Gilbert, a merchant in London, and this was her first child after a marriage of six or seven years.’

Who died the last week


Joseph Farington,

‘This day the greatest calamity that could fall upon me I suffered in the death of the best, the most affectionate, the most amiable of woemen, my beloved wife. Unexpected indeed was the blow, long had I reason to consider her delicate frame with apprehension, but as she had encountered the severity of many winters so I fondly hoped she might do this and that a more favorable season would restore Her strength. The time was now come when this hope was to be fruitless. Yesterday evening she was declared to be better, but in the night a change took place & at 3 o’clock this day I witnessed the departure of what I held most dear on earth. Without a sigh, with the appearance of only gentle sleep, did my beloved expire, to be received by that God to whom Her duty had been exemplary. May He in his mercies dispose my heart to follow the example of Her who discharged every duty so as to excite the love & respect of all, so that those remaining years which it may please God to allow to me may be devoted to His service and I may be rendered fit to hope for the mercies of my Creator through the mediation of Jesus Christ our blessed Lord Saviour.’

Farington, painter and diarist


Edward Hodges Cree,

‘Fine morning with breeze from south. Passed Zembra early and afterwards inside the Canes Rocks signalled the Rhadamanthus with mails for Gibraltar. In afternoon we were between Galite and the African coast going 7 knots. The wind hot and sultry and a lurid glare spread under a bank of inky clouds in the west. The barometer was falling rapidly. The clouds gradually formed an arch across the sky and suddenly the squall came on most furiously, taking us aback. Fortunately we had not many sails set and these were soon furled. The wind increased in violence and we made no headway by all our steaming. A heavy swell was getting up from the west. At night the storm raged most furiously and the wind screeched amongst the rigging, the vivid lightning flashed and thunder rolled and heavy driving rain. The sea ran very high and the poor little Firefly rolled as if she would have gone over. The night was very dark and we were not far from the black rocks of Galite. It was a night of trouble and anxiety.’

Pirate hunting expedition


Henry D. Thoreau,
philosopher and scientist

‘A fine spring morning. The ground is almost completely bare again. There has been a frost in the night. Now, at 8.30, it is melted and wets my feet like a dew. The water on the meadow this still, bright morning is smooth as in April. I am surprised to hear the strain of a song sparrow from the riverside, and as I cross from the causeway to the hill, thinking of the bluebird, I that instant hear one’s note from deep in the softened air. It is already 40°, and by noon is between 50° and 60°. As the day advances I hear more bluebirds and see their azure flakes settling on the fence-posts. Their short, rich, crispy warble curls through the air. Its grain now lies parallel to the curve of the bluebird’s warble, like boards of the same lot. It seems to be one of those early springs of which we have heard but have never experienced. Perhaps they are fabulous. I have seen the probings of skunks for a week or more. I now see where one has pawed out the worm-dust or other chankings from a hole in base of a walnut and torn open the fungi, etc., there, exploring for grubs or insects. They are very busy these nights.

If I should make the least concession, my friend would spurn me. I am obeying his law as well as my own.

Where is the actual friend you love ? Ask from what hill the rainbow’s arch springs! It adorns and crowns the earth.

Our friends are our kindred, of our species. There are very few of our species on the globe.

Between me and my friend what unfathomable distance! All mankind, like motes and insects, are between us.

If mv friend says in his mind, I will never see you again, I translate it of necessity into ever. That is its definition in Love’s lexicon.

Those whom we can love, we can hate; to others we are indifferent.

P. M. - To Walden. The railroad in the Deep Cut is dry as in spring, almost dusty. The best of the sand foliage is already gone. I walk without a greatcoat. A chickadee with its winter lisp flits over, and I think it is time to hear its phebe note, and that instant it pipes it forth. Walden is still covered with thick ice, though melted a foot from the shore.

The French (in the Jesuit Relations) say fil de l’eau for that part of the current of a river in which any floating thing would be carried, generally about equidistant from the two banks. It is a convenient expression, for which I think we have no equivalent.’

Get my boat out the cellar.’

Cows in the river


Korney Chukovsky,

‘Curious! I’ve been keeping a diary for several years and I’m used to its free form and informal content - light, motley, whimsical: I’ve filled several hundred pages by now. Yet coming back to it, I feel a certain reticence. In my earlier entries I made a pact with myself: it may be silly, it may be frivolous, it may be dry; it may fail to reflect my inner self - my moods and thoughts - granted, so be it. When my pen proved incapable of giving bold and concise expression to my hazy ideas, which the moment after they came to me I was unable to make out myself, when it ended up merely reflecting commonplaces, I bore it no particular ill will; I felt nothing more than mild frustration. But now, now I am ashamed in advance of every clumsy formulation, every sentimental outburst and superfluous exclamation mark; I am ashamed of the careless bumbling, the insincerity so characteristic of diaries, ashamed for her sake, for Masha. I categorically refuse to show this diary to her. < . . . >

Heavens, the rhetoric! Can I show this to anyone at all? [. . . ]’

Light, motley, whimsical


Nikolay Nikolayevich Punin,

‘The mood is extremely tense. It is difficult to do my own work. On Nevsky from time to time crowds gather, Cossacks are riding. The Duma is procrastinating. The failure of the Ministry of Health doesn’t correspond to the tension of the day. By evening rumors of strikes spread through the whole city; the running of the trams was disrupted. People are stocking up on kerosene, candles, water. There really is very little bread; there are lines at the stores; some women cry out from the pain of not receiving any bread.’

I love the masses


Odd Nansen,

‘It is six weeks ago today that I was arrested up in Gausdal. That seems to lie so infinitely far back in time. It’s strange how the days fly past. Working hours are positively too short if there is anything one wants to get done. And there is, here in the architects office. There are songs to write, caricatures to draw, matters to arrange. Recently there have been more and more prisoners wanting free designs for houses and cottages. Some must have them quickly, for they are expecting to get out soon; others have more time, but then as a rule they have also time to enforce their views on architecture, so that the problems gradually become comprehensive and downright wearing.

Our stout, comfortable Bauleiter is in the know. He quite realizes that we are working on things we ought not, but he has secured us the personal permission of the Storm Prince to have lights in our rooms until eleven every night, since we have “urgent matters” on hand. In addition he has now procured us a quantity of excellent drawing material.

We have even got hold of a copying machine, so that now we can get our caricatures and private jobs copied on the spot. Also he has arranged the purchase of an edging machine, so all our drawings are elegantly bordered. He is in on a certain amount of smuggling, thinks for instance that our bread ration is terribly small. His opinion was that he would starve to death if he had to live on it.

Of architecture he has not the faintest idea. He is a carpenter from Hannover, where in civil life he ran a little business. He is homesick for it and has had enough of soldiering, he says. It is badly paid and unattractive altogether. He was on the North Finnish front and was wounded there. He saw and experienced war at close quarters, and it was frightful. Once he saw a Finn cut the throats of four Russians, cut out their Adam’s apples and put them away as souvenirs. The Finn explained that he had to have sixteen Adam’s apples to get a holiday. Our fat friend Bauleiter Gebecke shook his head, which is like an egg the wrong way up, threw out his hand and smiled his broad smile, so that the little mouse teeth stood out between his mighty lips. “That’s war,” he said. It was something he had once been in, now it was past and gone. His reflections went no further. He was now in Grini, where he had been sent to look after some building work, far, far from the fronts. And here he thought he would have to stay at least two years.

He quite understands that the building work will be so-so. He fully shares our amusement at the way the plans are constantly being changed and that the bigwigs never can agree on how a first-class concentration camp ought to be designed. Today he was grinning all over when he arrived from Oslo with a big copying machine under his arm and announced that the last plan also had been rejected and therefore we were for the moment without a plan. That being so, he said, we had no use for this big machine, and it cost two hundred kroner, but “money is no object,” he declared with an even broader grin, which went almost to his ears.

I suggested that we might draw an office hut and build that first, and I turned up a sketch of such a hut. He got interested immediately and by the afternoon had already secured the Storm Prince’s consent, so now we can just get on with it and not bother about anyone else. “We won’t even show them the drawings,” said he. “We’ll just build the whole thing, order the materials, and get ahead.” Then he sat down and wanted to know how we actually set about building such a hut. I gave him a brisk little lecture on elementary domestic building, accompanied by sketches, and he was very attentive, very docile, and very grateful. After all he has really nothing to do, and if he had, he would be in rather a fix without us to lean on.’

What darkens prison life


Hugh Dalton,

‘Lunch with Mrs Phillimore and two Frenchmen. One, recently arrived from France, says that ‘the resistance’ is not divided into political parties but is more prepared, probably, than we in England for large changes after the war, both in the direction of European ‘federation’ - in loose form, e.g. unification of currency, transport services, etc. - and internally in Socialist direction, especially through public ownership of heavy industry. He thinks Germany should be admitted from the start to any new international organisation, but with very low status, this only being raised to that of other members gradually and in accord with German good behaviour. He thinks countries on the Atlantic seaboard will be much more stable and closely bound to England than anything to the east. He is not hopeful about south-east Europe.

Afterwards I go back with Attlee, who says that he and others today protested to the P.M. about last night’s pandemonium in Cabinet and the impossible position in which our officials were now placed. P.M. said he thought we were really all agreed on three things: (1) no return to the gold standard, (2) no abolition, or even reduction, of Imperial Preference, except in return for sufficient tariff concessions by Americans, and (3) no increase in the price of food by taxation. He inveighed again, with great emphasis, on this third point. Anderson said that these three points would suit him and the P.M. said he would issue a short Minute.’

Uproar in Parliament


Alexander Cadogan,
civil servant

‘3.15 walked into Green Park. Spent about 5 mins watching a baseball match. It’s the silliest - and the dullest - game I’ve ever seen. I’d sooner play dominoes with mangold wurzels. Back at the F.O. about 4. Yellow crocuses well out, some purple in flower and a few white. Forsythia just showing yellow. Not too much work. Home at 7.’

Went to see P.M. (in bed)


Bernard Donoughue,

‘My view is that we must establish an image of [Margaret] Thatcher [then the leader of the opposition] as a dangerous woman who will divide our society and create trouble. We are doing this now over immigration. Instead of ducking this issue, as many have advised, I have pressed the PM to take it head-on and attack her for inciting racial hatred - and so causing violence on the streets. We will not win any votes on the immigration issue this way: Thatcher will gain a lot on that in the short run. But I hope that in the long run we can broaden it out to her disadvantage. So we shall show that she is abrasive and divisive on industrial relations, confronting the trade unions. And on Scottish devolution. And on social security casualties - ‘scroungers etc’. And on the unemployed - attacking redundancy payments.’

Donoughue’s Downing Street play


Pope John Paul II,

‘6.00 p.m.: Vespers; Veni Creator [Come, Creator (Spirit)]

Talk. Meditation (1): We form a retreat community. In the centre: Christ. The Holy Spirit, who speaks ‘inside us’.

We are at the core of the Church: in Rome - and in the world. The Church prepares for Passover.

Lent - is a calling!

Topic: The symbol of faith.

In unity with the Mother of the Church from Lourdes: St Bernadette’s words: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, a poor sinner.

Eucharistic Adoration; Rosary (III); Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Blessed Virgin Mary, St Joseph; Compline; Reading’

A pope's unworldly diaries


David Sedaris,

‘This was an amazing New York day. In the morning I met with Geoff Kloske, the editorial assistant from Little, Brown who called a few weeks back to ask if he could read my manuscript. He’s only twenty-three, a kid, and has a grandmother in Jacksonville, North Carolina. We had coffee and afterward he took me to meet his boss, Roger, a big, good-looking chain-smoker who said that he, too, liked my manuscript and hopes to get back to me within a week or two.

Afterward I went to our play rehearsal (for Stump the Host). We open a week from tomorrow.’

Sedaris gets the call


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And so made significant . . .
is the world’s greatest online anthology of diary extracts. It is presented in the same way as popular books like The Assassin’s Cloak and The Faber Book of Diaries, i.e. by calendar day, but contains more, and many longer, extracts than is possible in published books. Moreover, for each quoted extract there’s a link to a Diary Review article with some or all of the following: further extracts, biographical information, contexts, a portrait, and links to online sources/etexts. Furthermore, new extracts are added on a regular basis.

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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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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.