And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

9 February

John Evelyn,

‘Dined at my Lord Treasurer’s, the Earl of Southampton, in Bloomsbury, where he was building a noble square or piazza [London’s first square, or at least one of the earliest], a little town; his own house stands too low, some noble rooms, a pretty cedar chapel, a naked garden to the north, but good air. I had much discourse with his Lordship, whom I found to be a person of extraordinary parts, but a valetudinarian.

I went to St James’s Park, where I saw various animals, and examined the throat of the Onocrotylus, or pelican, a fowl between a stork and a swan; a melancholy waterfowl, brought from Astrakhan by the Russian Ambassador; it was diverting to see how he would toss up and turn a flat fish, plaice, or flounder, to get it right into his gullet at its lower beak, which, being filmy, stretches to a prodigious wideness when it devours a great fish. Here was also a small water-fowl, not bigger than a moorhen, that went almost quite erect, like the penguin of America; it would eat as much fish as its whole body weighed; I never saw so unsatiable a devourer, yet the body did not appear to swell the bigger. The solan geese here are also great devourers, and are said soon to exhaust all the fish in a pond. Here was a curious sort of poultry not much exceeding the size of a tame pigeon, with legs so short as their crops seemed to touch the earth; a milk-white raven; a stork, which was a rarity at this season, seeing he was loose, and could fly loftily; two Balearian cranes, one of which having had one of his legs broken and cut off above the knee, had a wooden or boxen leg and thigh, with a joint so accurately made that the creature could walk and use it as well as if it had been natural; it was made by a soldier. The park was at this time stored with numerous flocks of several sorts of ordinary and extraordinary wild fowl, breeding about the Decoy, which for being near so great a city, and among such a concourse of soldiers and people, is a singular and diverting thing. There were also deer of several countries, white; spotted like leopards; antelopes, an elk, red deer, roebucks, stags, Guinea goats, Arabian sheep, etc. There were withy-pots, or nests, for the wild fowl to lay their eggs in, a little above the surface of the water.’

A most excellent person


Horace Walpole,
historian and writer

‘9th. Lord Howe presented to the House of Commons a petition from the captains in the navy, on half-pay, for a small addition. Lord Sandwich had been against it for fear of the precedent. Lord North had intended to take no part, and though he did, for the same reasons as Lord Sandwich, had neglected taking any precautions for having it rejected. Accordingly, as the sum required was inconsiderable, as the navy had made interest for it, and the army, liking the example, would not oppose it, but absented themselves, Lord North was beaten by 154 to 45. There were, however, circumstances in this defeat that looked suspicious, and as if there were some treachery in more places than one. The Duke of Grafton’s friends openly acted against Lord North: those of the other part of the Bedford squadron absented themselves, and were known to be envious of the minister’s power: but the most remarkable incident was, that Sir Gilbert Elliot (believed to be more trusted by the King than any man except LordMansfield, and yet who for two years had acted the part of discontent) was the warmest supporter of the petition. They who had most jealousy of the King and his cabal suspected that they meant to insinuate to the navy and army that his Majesty favoured their claim, and that the Minister’s economy alone withstood it.’

The thread of my observations


Harriet Arbuthnot,

‘The King recovering from his severe illness, but still very unwell & not able to attend to business. The Duke of W[ellingto]n called on me & told me the King was determined to dismiss the ministers if they did not consent to attempt a divorce for him [King George IV was trying to persuade Parliament to grant him a divorce from his estranged wife Queen Caroline]. They equally determined not to do so. He likewise told me that the Vice-Chancellor misled the King by making him believe the Whigs would try to consent to try the divorce. Saw Fred: Ponsonby & Charles Greville who asserted that the Whigs in a body would vote strongly against a divorce. Dined at the Russian Ambassador’s; Madame de Lieven played & Count Pahlen sung most beautifully.’

Rid of such monsters


John Quincy Adams,

‘May the blessing of God rest upon the event of this day! - the second Wednesday in February, when the election of a President of the United States for the term of four years, from the 4th of March next, was consummated. Of the votes in the electoral colleges, there were ninety-nine for Andrew Jackson, of Tennessee; eighty-four for John Quincy Adams, of Massachusetts; forty-one for William Harris Crawford, of Georgia; and thirty-seven for Henry Clay, of Kentucky: in all, two hundred and sixty-one. This result having been announced, on opening and counting the votes in joint meeting of the two Houses, the House of Representatives immediately proceeded to the vote by ballot from the three highest candidates, when John Quincy Adams received the votes of thirteen, Andrew Jackson of seven, and William H. Crawford of four States. The election was thus completed, very unexpectedly, by a single ballot. Alexander H. Everett gave me the first notice, both of the issue of the votes of the electoral colleges as announced in the joint meeting, and of the final vote as declared. Wyer followed him a few minutes afterwards. Mr. Bolton and Mr. Thomas, the Naval Architect, succeeded; and B. W. Crowninshield, calling, on his return from the House to his lodgings, at my house, confirmed the report.

Congratulations from several of the officers of the Department of State ensued - from D. Brent, G. Ironside, W. Slade, and Joseas W. King. Those of my wife, children, and family were cordial and affecting, and I received an affectionate note from Mr. Rufus King, of New York, written in the Senate-chamber after the event. . .

After dinner, the Russian Minister, Baron Tuyll called to congratulate me upon the issue of the election. I attended, with Mrs. Adams, the drawing-room at the President’s. It was crowded to overflowing. General Jackson was there, and we shook hands. He was altogether placid and courteous. I received numerous friendly salutations. D. Webster asked me when I could receive the committee of the House to announce to me my election. I appointed to-morrow noon, at my own house.’

Election of a president


Isabelle Eberhardt,

‘Around five o’clock this afternoon, Abdallah ben Mohammed [her attacker] was put in a prison cell. I saw him arrive and studied him while he was being searched by soldiers . . . I had a profound feeling of pity for this man, the blind instrument of a destiny whose meaning he does not understand. And seeing that grey silhouette, standing with his head bowed, flanked by the two blue uniforms, I had perhaps the strangest and deepest impression I have ever experienced of mystery.

Much as I search my heart for hatred towards this man, I cannot find any. Even less contempt. What I do feel for him is curious: it seems to me that I am close to an abyss, in the presence of a mystery whose last word - or rather whose first word - hasn’t yet been spoken, and which would contain the whole meaning of my life. As long as I do not know the key to this enigma - and shall I ever know it! God alone knows - I shall not know who I am, or what is the reason or explanation of my destiny, one of the most incredible there has been. Yet, it seems to me that I am not meant to disappear without having plumbed the depths of this enigma, from its strange beginnings to the present.

“Madness,” sceptics will say, who like easy solutions and have no patience with mystery. They are wrong, because to see the chasms that life conceals and that three-quarters of the population don’t even suspect exist cannot be treated as folly, in the same way that an artist’s descriptions of sunset or of a stormy night would seem ridiculous to a man born blind.

If the strangeness of my life were the result of snobbery of a pose, yes, then people could say, “She brought those events on herself”, but no! No one has ever lived more from day to day and by chance as I have, and it is very much the events themselves, inexorably linked to one another, which have brought me to where I am and absolutely not me who has created them. Perhaps the strange side of my nature can be summed up in a single trait: the need to keep searching, come what may, for new events, and flee inertia and stagnation.’

The magnificent Sahara


James Courage
, writer

‘My twenty-seventh birthday. I turn back a year in the journal to find that last February I wrote as an aspiration: “To be famous and to be loved.” Well, I am loved. Now what about the fame?’

I’d have liked that too


James Courage,

‘My twenty-ninth birthday. Sobering reflection that I have spent so much of the last nine years in the company of fools, vagabonds, sex-maniacs and literary people generally. Well, if I have caught T. B. I’ve at least escaped syphilis. My great regret is that I have not written, as yet, the really good book I want to, though ‘The PY’ has excellent moments. To-day I wrote the passage about my grandmother and Mr Sherwood.’

I’d have liked that too


Zorina Gray,

‘Took photos the whole day in the theater until 4:30. In the evening, big party in the Café de Paris for Wiman and Lina - so sad that they had to leave already - but the party was divine. Wiman absolutely wants me to come to New York for him and a new show.’

My knees felt like macaroni


Astrid Lindgren,

‘What a world, what an existence! Reading the papers is a depressing pastime. Bombs and machine guns hounding women and children in Finland, the oceans full of mines and submarines, neutral sailors dying, or at best being rescued in the nick of time after days and nights of privation on some wretched raft, the behind-the-scenes tragedy of the Polish population (nobody’s supposed to know what’s happening, but some things get into the papers anyway), special sections on the trams for ‘the German master race’, the Poles not allowed out after 8 in the evening, and so on. The Germans talk about their ‘harsh but just treatment’ of the Poles - so then we know. What hatred it will generate! In the end the world will be so full of hate that it chokes us.

I think it’s God’s punishment being visited on the world. And to crown it all, we are having a winter more bitter than any we can remember. Ice has made communications by sea even more difficult and there’s a serious coal shortage. It’s awfully cold in our flat, but we’re getting used to it. We’ve almost abandoned the idea of fresh air and airing the place out, though we used to sleep with the window open all year round. The fuel situation in Denmark is even worse than here, and their houses aren’t as well built, either. Meanwhile, I’ve bought a fur coat - even though doomsday is likely to arrive before I’ve had time to wear it out.’

Let there be peace


Robertson Davies,

‘Bill Broughall lunched with me at the University Club. He tells me Vincent Massey says “a gentleman never takes soup with luncheon at his club” because Lord Curzon said it. I fear I shall run into many things a gentleman does not do, and which are unknown to me; but I am writer, and therefore a bit of a bounder.’

Robertson Davies as diarist


Charles Ritchie,

‘I think that part of my reaction of boredom and distaste for Spender’s book comes from being reminded by it of countless pages of similar self-absorption in my own diaries. When I first knew E, I was surprised and rather disconcerted by her lack of concern with her own ‘interesting personality’. I found it difficult to accept when she, the leading psychological novelist of the day, told me that she was not interested in people and their motives and characters. I now understand what she meant. The exercise no longer amuses me. In fact it is only from obstinacy that I write this private diary at all.’

V happy with E


Antonia Fraser,

‘Joyous, dangerous and unavoidable - Harold’s three words to Kevin Billington about us, quoted by Harold to me on the telephone. Not bad Pinteresque words.’

In love with Pinter


Corin Redgrave,

‘It’s an age since I wrote this diary. All my good intentions to write it at least every other day have been sabotaged by the unusually heavy workload of writing for the magazine [The Marxist].

It’s the second very long day of technical rehearsal. I have a nice spacious dressing room, with a shower and loo. When I get the chance I’ll get a divan brought in, and a fridge, and put some of our beautiful photos on the wall. They made me cry with joy, and a little bit with pain, because they make you seem so close and yet you’re so far. At night I play your “I’m beginning to miss you”, and I could swear you must be thinking of me, except I know - or I hope - you’re asleep.

My dresser, Dino, has been dressing Uta Hagen. She’s on in a play off-B’way, which will run for another three weeks. Another good reason you should hurry on over if humanly possible, to catch her while she’s still here. Dino says she’s a ‘miracle’ and I’m sure he’s right.’

Our Time of Day


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Why Ever Did I Want to Write is a patchwork of themed stories about one man’s early life, embracing highs and lows but driven by a desire to make the most of being alive, to experience, to feel, and above all to understand. Reminiscent of Karl Knausgaard’s A Death in the Family and Theodore Zeldin’s An Intimate History of Humanity, this memoir, often based on diaries, sees Lyons reflecting on a repressed childhood, exploring the world through years of travelling, and searching for meaning and excitement in the arts and love affairs – an archetype of the counterculture in the 1970s and 1980s.

Not a Brave New World is an extraordinary fictional memoir, a trilogy in three wives, spanning the whole of the 21st century: one man’s - Kip Fenn’s - frank account, sometimes acutely painful and sometimes surprisingly joyful, of his three partners, and his career in international diplomacy working to tackle the rich-poor divide.

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Kip Fenn’s first love is in a coma. His father suddenly isn’t his father. After formative trips to Brussels and Brazil, Kip wins a civil service job. Unfortunately, a media baron discovers his sexual weakness and is blackmailing him for government secrets. If only Kip could find solace in his wife’s arms or joy in his children.

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Kip Fenn is a success: his career has taken off within a major UN agency trying to spread wealth from the rich to the poor. But all is not well with the world - the golden age of oil and chips is now over, and unsustainable development is leading to social turmoil, and to world war. Kip has found love and a new family, but he can find no way to stop his older children self-destruct; nor does he realise his partner’s deceit.

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Third time lucky - Kip Fenn finds true love. His UN career though is ending with a whimper. Another terrible war is cut short by the devastating Grey Years, and while nations rebuild many individuals turn Notek. In restless retirement, Kip’s lifelong passion for vintage photos sees him launching a new arts institution. But who is the mysterious visitor by his bedside, and how will she affect his planned deathday?


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.

in diary days



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.

SITE DEVISED by Paul K Lyons

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.