And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

12 January

John Evelyn,

‘My grand-daughter was christened by Dr. Tenison, now Bishop of Lincoln, in Trinity Church, being the first that was christened there. She was named Jane.’

Modesty, prudence, piety


Mirza Abul Hassan Khan,

‘On either side of the lofty stage [Covent Garden theatre, recently rebuilt] are galleries with painted ceilings. Although somewhat smaller than the Opera, the decoration is more elaborate. Musicians banished sorrow from our hearts with their songs. It seemed strange that the audience reacted to some of the tunes with such boisterous applause that it could be heard by the cherubim in heaven, but to others they appeared totally deaf.

The manager of the theatre, Mr Kemble [John Philip] acted the part of a King of Britain who divides his kingdom between two of his daughter, leaving the third without a share [this was a much-altered version of King Lear].

Next, several multi-coloured curtains were lowered, and from behind these curtains - in the manner of Iranian acrobats - appeared the fantastic figures of divs and peris, of birds and beasts. No one watching their antics could possibly have retained his composure. Grimaldi, a famous clown, performed an act which I shall never forget: he would leap from a high window and just as easily leap back up again, returning each time as a different character and causing the noble audience to laugh uncontrollably.

Walking around the theatre, my companions and I saw beautiful ladies, beautifully dressed, casting flirtatious glances from their boxes. Then we left the theatre by the King’s door and came home.’

I was utterly amazed!


Henry Greville
, courtier and diplomat

‘On Tuesday there was a great ball at the Embassy. The Infants of Spain, Don Francisco and Dona Carlotta and their children, were present. The Infanta, a huge, fat, frightful woman, danced the whole evening like a girl of sixteen. Don Francisco is an ignoble stunted-looking man with a Bourbon face.

An interesting discussion is going on in the Chambers on the Eastern question. The feeling against Russia is very strong, but, on the other hand, the English alliance is not so popular as it has been.’

I went with the Queen


Sanford Fleming,

‘Little Mr Buchan, Scobie & Balfour engraver had been drunk last night and cant work today. Silly fellow to spend his time and money, and breaking his constitution. Can it be possible that I shall be a drunkard; surely not. Paid the Jew £3/10 the Quarter rent.’

Adieu to my youth


Fridtjof Nansen
, explorer

‘There was pressure about 10 o’clock this morning in the opening forward, but I could see no movement when I was there a little later. I followed the opening some way to the north. It is pretty cold work walking with the thermometer at 40° F below zero, and the wind blowing with a velocitv of 16 feet per second straight in your face. But now we are certainly drifting fast to the north under Liv’s star. After all, it is not quite indifferent to me whether we are going north or south. When the drift is northward new life seems to come into me, and hope, the ever young, springs fresh and green from under the winter snow. I see the way open before me, and I see the home-coming in the distance - too great happiness to believe in.’

Siberian driftwood cannot lie


Henry James
, writer

‘Note here the ghost-story told me at Addington (evening of Thursday 10th), by the Archbishop of Canterbury: a mere vague, undetailed faint sketch of it – being all he had been told (very badly and imperfectly) by a lady who had no art of relation, and no clearness: the story of the young children (indefinite number and age) left to the care of servants in an old country-house, through the death, presumably, of parents. The servants, wicked and depraved, corrupt and deprave the children; the children are bad, full of evil, to a sinister degree. The servants die (the story vague about the way of it) and their apparitions, figures, return to haunt the house and children, to whom they seem to beckon, whom they invite and solicit, from across dangerous places, the deep ditch of a sunk fence, etc. – so that the children may destroy themselves, lose themselves by responding, by getting into their power. So long as the children are kept from them, they are not lost: but they try and try and try, these evil presences, to get hold of them. It is a question of the children ‘coming over to where they are’. It is all obscure and imperfect, the picture, the story, but there is a suggestion of strangely gruesome effect to it. The story to be told – tolerably obviously – by an outside spectator, observer.’ [This is about what would become Turn of the Screw.]

Hammer out a little idea


Samuel Beckett,

‘Bright and cold. First view of terraces faced with glass frames for vines disconcerting, but soon accepted. Trimmed yews very effective. Terrace perhaps too steep and heavy for the palace, which disappears at the foot of every flight. Palace exquisite, and big summer house, faultlessly proportioned, the shallow green cupola resting like a flower on the yellow front, and the caryatids laughing under the lightness of their load. Not in the least Versailles or Watteauesque, but truly an architecture without care.’

This absurd diary


Miles Franklin,

‘Hot day. Mother spiteful. Norman morose. Ivy A. [Abrahams] in tears. I took Lily to town & did chores: typewriter, looking for washer for Mother etc. Life Hell - can’t write, nothing to hope for - even death has ceased to be a refuge.’

Couldn’t you get married now?


George Adamson,

‘Joy asked me whether, if we got married, she would spoil my life - I said she could make it and I believe she could.’

A life of Joy and lions


Tage Erlander,

‘The opening of the Riksdag is always tiring, although less so now than before. But all this swinging and swaying and standing at attention is more exhausting than a major political speech. I am interested in the latter and it prods me into formulating what I have to say. But an empty ceremony and the subsequent small talk over lunch at the Palace require continual activity. All to no purpose.’

Am I completely finished


Paul K. Lyons,

‘Went to London yesterday. First to Kensal Rise, to the Simon/Underwood house, to join Andrew and a Jewish expert, Moshe Rosenfeld, to look over the Jewish books. Moshe spent a couple of hours in the house, but he seemed more interested in chatting about general Jewish things, then in really giving us much info on the books. He wasn’t very enthusiastic about the collection, largely because of its strong Zionist focus, but, later, when he went to have another look at the books, he kept looking at individual volumes and saying they might be valuable. I don’t think he knew that much. He said he would talk to a friend of his, a real book dealer, later that day and get back to Andrew. I expect I’ll hear him from him tonight.’

How I saved the Balfour papers!


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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.