And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

5 February

William Laud,

‘Wednesday, I came to London. I went that night to his Majesty, hearing he had sent for me. He delivered me a book to read and observe. It was a tract of a Capuchin, that had once been a Protestant. He was now with the French ambassador. The tract was to prove that Christ’s body was in two places at once, in the apparition to St. Paul.’

My picture fallen


Charlotte Brontë,

‘Friday afternoon. Now as I have a little bit of time, there being no French lessons this afternoon, I should like to write something. I can’t enter into any continued narrative—my mind is not settled enough for that—but if I could call up some slight and pleasant sketch, I would amuse myself by jotting it down.

Let me consider the other day. I appeared to realize a delicious, hot day in the most burning height of summer, a gorgeous afternoon of idleness and enervation descending upon the hills of our Africa, an evening enfolding a sky of profoundly deep blue & fiery gold about the earth.

Dear me! I keep heaping epithets together and I cannot describe what I mean. I mean a day whose rise, progress & decline seem made of sunshine. As you are travelling you see the wide road before you, the field on each side & the hills far, far off, all smiling, glowing in the same amber light, and you feel such an intense heat, quite incapable of chilling damp or even refreshing breeze. A day when fruits visibly ripen, when orchards appear suddenly change from green to gold.

Such a day I saw flaming over the distant Sydenham Hills in Hawkscliffe Forest. I saw its sublime sunset pouring beams of crimson through magnificent glades. It seemed to me that the war was over, that the trumpet had ceased but a short time since, and that its last tones had been pitched on a triumphant key. It seemed as if exciting events—tidings of battles, of victories, of treaties, of meetings of mighty powers—had diffused an enthusiasm over the land that made its pulses beat with feverish quickness. After months of bloody toil, a time of festal rest was now bestowed on Angria. The noblemen, the generals and the gentlemen were at their country seats, & the Duke, young but war-worn, was Hawkscliffe.

A still influence stole out of the stupendous forest, whose calm was now more awful than the sea-like rushing that swept through its glades in time of storm. Groups of deer appeared & disappeared silently amongst the prodigious stems, & now and then a single roe glided down the savannah park, drank of the Arno & fleeted back again.

Two gentlemen in earnest conversation were walking along in St Mary’s Grove, & their deep commingling tones, very much subdued, softly broke the silence of the evening. Secret topics seemed to be implied in what they said, for the import of their words was concealed from every chance listener by the accents of a foreign tongue. All the soft vowels of Italian articulation flowed from their lips, as fluently as if they had been natives of the European Eden. “Henrico” was the appellative by which the talker & the younger of the two addressed his companion, & the other replied by the less familiar title of “Monsignore.” That young signore, or lord, often looked up at the Norman towers of Hawkscliffe, which rose even above the lofty elms of St Mary’s Grove. The sun was shining on their battlements, kissing them with its last beam that rivalled in hue the fire-dyed banner hanging motionless above them.

“Henrico,” said he, speaking still in musical Tuscan, “this is the 29th of June.” Neither you nor I ever saw a fairer day. What does it remind you of? All such sunsets have associations.”

Henrico knitted his stern brow in thought & at the same time fixed his very penetrating black eye on the features of his noble comrade, which, invested by habit and nature with the aspect of command & pride, were at this sweet hour relaxing to the impassioned & fervid expression of romance. “What does it remind you of, my lord,” said he briefly.

“Ah! Many things, Henrico! Ever since I can remember, the rays of the setting sun have acted on my heart, as they did on Memnon’s wondrous statue. The strings always vibrate, sometimes the tones swell in harmony, sometimes in discord. They play a wild air just now, but, sweet & ominously plaintive Henrico, can you imagine what I feel when I look into the dim & gloomy vistas of this my forest, & at yonder turrets which the might of my own hands has raised, not the halls of my ancestors like hoary morning [illeg.]. Calm diffuses over this wide wood a power to stir & thrill the mind such as words can never express. Look at the red west—the sun is gone & it is fading. Gaze into those mighty groves supernaturally still & full of gathering darkness. Listen how the Arno moans!’

From real to fantastical


Richard Henry Dana Jr.,

‘Called on Dickens at 10.30 A. M. by appointment, as he leaves at one. He was at breakfast. Sat down with him. He was very agreeable and full of life. He is the cleverest man I ever met. I mean he impresses you more with the alertness of his various powers. His forces are all light infantry and light cavalry, and always in marching order. There are not many heavy pieces, but few sappers and miners, the scientific corps is deficient, and I fear there is no chaplain in the garrison.

Mrs. Dickens appears to be an excellent woman. She is natural in her manners, seems not at all elated by her new position, but rests upon a foundation of good sense and good feeling.’

The slurs of vessel owners


Heinrich Witt,

‘A little past 6 o’clock I started for Lima the fog was uncommonly dense, I could hardly see a few yards ahead so that I reached Lima without suffering from heat, Rufino Macedo was my companion on the road. I remained in Lima until Sunday. I took my plain meals in the Victoria Fonda, Juan his in another, whilst Garland breakfasted and dined with Foster of Allsop’s.

Longest Latin America diary


Henry Greville,
courtier and diplomat

‘Yesterday I went with the Queen to the House of Lords. The day was magnificent, and the crowds of people far greater than I ever saw on any other similar occasion. The carriage in which I sat (the first) was too far from the Queen to judge of her reception, but the Duchess of Sutherland, who was in the State coach, told me the cheering was great, but the cries of ‘No Popery!’ were continuous. The House of Lords looked beautiful, filled as it was to overflowing by women in every sort of colour and sparkling with jewels.’

I went with the Queen


Edward Belcher,

‘The weather still remains line, but the temperature still clinging to -40°. Yesterday, under a change of wind to the northward, a point from which it seldom blows, we experienced a fall of snow, the temperature dropping, contrary to rule, as low as -50°; this was succeeded by calm and a rise to -40°.

After prayers today the bodies of our two men were interred in the same grave, with the customary solemnities. I had already deferred it some days, in the hope of milder weather; indeed, in a great measure, to enable me to officiate in my proper place; but the superstitious feelings of the crew were at work, and I thought it better to stop talking and conclude the ceremony. The service was read by Commander Richards; indeed I suffered severely from the exposure, which sent me to bed with severe rheumatism, or, what I am more inclined to believe, an attack of jaundice.

I do not quit my post here


John A. Dahlgren,
naval commander

‘The Presidential Reception came off this evening, as appointed. The President and Mrs. Lincoln received in the East Room. The only distinction between this soirée and the usual reception was, that the guests were selected by invitation and there was a supper. It so happened, I was the only Navy officer present. The officers of the Army, below the rank of General of Brigade, with one or two exceptions, were not there. 

All the Foreign Ministers were present.

About midnight the President led the way to the supper-room, which was said to be the most superb thing of the kind that had been seen in Washington. . . While the supper was going on, I fell in with General McClellan. He whispered to me that Fremont was in the room. This is the first occasion I have heard of Fremont’s appearance in such places. The General admired my sword very much; for, being in full uniform, I wore that presented by the Seventy-first. I observed the niece of Mrs. McClellan with General Stone. Four days afterwards General Stone was arrested for treason and sent to Fort Lafayette.

The ‘father’ of US naval ordnance


Heinrich Schenker,

‘D-minor Quartet of Schoenberg, by [the] Rosé [Quartet]. A single, long-drawn-out atrocity! If there were such a thing as criminals in the realm of art, one would have to count this composer among their ranks, as one born such or perhaps merely turned criminal. Without feeling for key, motive, measure, on its own terms just utterly threadbare, without a trace of technique, and nevertheless at the same time constantly the hugest non-existent, the total sham . . . ’

Diaries of a musical theorist


Heinrich Schenker,

‘At Dr. Baumgarten’s: I show him the last statement of account; he writes a letter to UE threatening legal action. We give Mozio 120 dollars. I cannot refrain from mentioning that I could have made Tonwille myself for 32 million, to my own benefit and to the benefit of the world - he plays deaf! Lie-Liechen cannot refrain from reminding him about Frieda - he plays deaf! He offers to intervene with the Philharmonischer Verlag - through Elbemühl; I take his boasting word right out of his mouth, saying: I dismissed this publishing house. Lie-Liechen writes the fair copy of the Largo. ’

Diaries of a musical theorist


Zorina Gray,

‘What a day - but first things first. Slept late - then played all the rumba records [apparently that was soothing!]. Mama and I went nearly mad from nerves. Then I went to church - truly, God was with me yesterday. Then to the doctor and hairdresser, then into the blue Schiap cape and to the theater. My dressing room was filled with flowers, telegrams, costumes, and a thousand things - Doris [my dresser] found everything so glamorous, which pleased me the most - then Toi-Toi’s for good luck, and suddenly I was on stage singing “Ochi chornye.” Everything went the way I hoped - every little thing. The success was enormous - people poured into my dressing room. I simply couldn’t speak - everything trembled in me. Violet Tree said she had seen Bernhardt, and even against that she thought I was wonderful - oh my! People whom I didn’t know congratulated me. In the Savoy Grill, big applause - then to Leslie Henson’s, more people. The most beautiful day of my life. My mamile and I sat holding each other by the hand like two children. Everything was really like a dream - so beautiful - (and more), My God, what an evening - flowers - people - congratulations - Wiman - Henson - Fairbanks - Cochran - Asher - hundreds of people, and I was honored at the Savoy Grill!!!’

My knees felt like macaroni


Nella Last,

‘I don’t get much done these days, for I am beginning to feel I want to go to sleep if I sit down to sew; and then again, when the alarm-clock goes off at five minutes before every hour, and I’ve to make baby’s wee eggcup of Nestlé’s and give it to her, a quarter of an hour at the very least goes out of every hour - day and night. She made a mewing sound today. It was hardly a cry and her tiny fingers curled round my finger with surprising strength when I put my finger in her doll-like palm. Sol is in deepest disgrace - very deep. I put cod-liver oil swabs I’d used in a paper bag in the garage, and meant to put the bag in a sack with all the oiled wool together. It was on the potatoes barrel and must have got knocked off, and my silly little old dog has eaten them! I’ve given him castor oil and am hoping he is all right tomorrow.’

Carrying their gas masks


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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.

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.