And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

13 January

James Cook,

‘Winds Variable. P.M., Cloudy weather. At 7 o’Clock sounded and had 42 fathoms water, being distant from the Shore between 2 and 3 Leagues and the Peaked Mountain as near as I could judge bore East. After it was Dark saw a fire upon the Shore, a sure sign that the Country is inhabited. In the night had some Thunder, Lightning, and Rain; at 5 a.m. saw for a few Minutes the Top of the Peaked Mountain above the Clouds bearing North-East. It is of a prodidgious height and its Top is cover’d with Everlasting Snow; it lies in the Latitude of 39 degrees 16 minutes South, and in the Longitude of 185 degrees 15 minutes West. I have named it Mount Egmont in honour of the Earl of Egmont. [The Earl of Egmont was First Lord of the Admiralty from 1763 to 1766. Mount Egmont is a magnificent conical mountain, surrounded on three sides by the sea, from which it rises to a height of 8300 feet.] This mountain seems to have a pretty large base and to rise with a Gradual Ascent to the Peak, and what makes it more Conspicuous is its being situated near the Sea and in the Midst of a flat Country which afforded a very good Aspect, being Cloathed with Woods and Verdure. The shore under the foot of this Mountain forms a large Cape which I have named Cape Egmont; it lies South-South-West 1/2 West, 27 Leagues from Albetross Point. On the North-East side of the Cape lay 2 Small Islands near to a very remarkable Point of the Main that riseth to a good height in the very form of a Sugar Loaf. To the Southward of the Cape the Land tends away South-East by East and East-South-East, and seems to be every where a bold shore. At Noon had variable light Airs and Clear weather. Latitude observ’d 39 degrees 32 minutes South. Cape Egmont bore about North-East, and we were about 4 Leagues from the Shore in that direction; in this situation had 40 fathoms Water.’

The journals of James Cook


William Wilberforce,

‘Three or four times have I most grievously broke my resolutions since I last took up my pen alas! alas! how miserable a wretch am I! How infatuated, how dead to every better feeling yet - yet - yet - may I, Oh God, be enabled to repent and turn to thee with my whole heart, I am now flying from thee. Thou hast been above all measure gracious and forgiving. . . .’

God’s work against slavery


Fredrika Bremer,
writer and reformer

‘My bad suspicions have their entirely good, or I will say, bad foundation. Hellfrid Eittersvärd wrote a note to Selma this morning, wherein she asked a loan of fifty rix-dollars. She needed this sum to pay the pension of her youngest brother, and would be able to repay it in two months. With eyes flashing with desire to gratify Hellfrid’s wish, Selma showed the letter to her mother, and prayed her to advance the desired sum, which she had not now herself.

“With infinite pleasure, my beloved child!” exclaimed my stepmother, who is always ready to give; hastened to her writing-desk, and opened the drawer where she usually keeps money; but suddenly she appeared to recollect something, and turned pale. She took out a purse, which a few days before was full of heavy silver-pieces, put in her hand instinctively, but drew out merely a few rix-dollars. A painful confusion painted itself on her countenance, as she said, almost stammering, “Ah! I have not - I cannot now! St. Orme has borrowed all my money. He promised to bring it me back again in a few days, but - in the mean time - how shall we manage it?”

My stepmother had tears in her eyes; and her troubled appearance, her pale cheeks - I sprang immediately up to my chamber, and came down again quickly with a few canary-birds (so my stepmother and Selma, in their merry way, call the large yellow bank-bills; whilst the others, just according to their look and their value, have the names of other birds).

Selma embraced me, and danced for joy at the sight of the yellow notes. But my stepmother took them with a kind of embarrassment - a dissatisfied condescension, which somewhat grieved me. She promised that I should soon receive back the bills. And if I “must borrow from her, I might be sure that,” and so on.

Her coldness cooled me. In the mean time we governed the state together in the afternoon, and handled “the system,” and other important things, I will not venture to say exactly according to what system if not — according to the system of confusion. My thoughts were in another direction. They followed Felix and Selma. He seemed to wish to speak to her alone, and she seemed on the contrary to wish to avoid him, in which also she succeeded.’

Enjoy thy existence


Nassau William Senior,
lawyer and political thinker

‘This is the Greek New Year’s Day. A great ball was given at the Palace. I went at about nine, and found the rooms, which are very large, full. [. . .] I was introduced to Mr. Rangaby, the minister of foreign affairs. He asked me “what were the improvements of which Greece seemed to me to be most in want?” I said roads; that if I could appoint a prime minister for Greece, it should be one of the Macadam family.

“It is true,” he answered, “that the absence of roads is a barbarism which we have inherited from the Turks. In this country, intersected by torrents, bridges are wanted every two or three miles. The government by law ought to make the bridges, the demoi [people] the roads. The government has totally neglected its duty. The demoi have sometimes performed theirs, but their roads, having become useless from the want of bridges, have gone to ruin. But we are now seriously at work. We have passed a law, requiring every man to contribute from six to twelve days’ work on the roads every year, and the minister of the interior promises us bridges. As we know nothing of roads, we have sent to France for a road-maker.

The Ponts-et-Chaussée have given us M. Galiani. We pay him three times as much as we pay to any of our ministers. But he says that he can do nothing with Greek workmen. So some cantonniers are to be sent from France to help them. In the mean time he is repairing the Piraeus road.”

“He is repairing it,” I answered, “by throwing on it a bed, about a foot thick, of unbroken shingle taken from the beach, which will never bind, through which it is difficult to force the wheels of a carriage. I fear that you have made a bad beginning. Another subject of complaint, “I continued, “is the collection of your land revenue.”

“The collection of it in kind,” he answered, “is a serious evil, but we cannot substitute a money payment until we have a cadaster - a general valuation of all the lands in the country.”

“At least,” I said, “you might require the farmers of the revenue to send and take their tithe, instead of requiring all the grain of every district to be sent to the areas at an enormous expense of labour and time.”

“I fear,” he answered, “that to require the farmer of the land revenue to send for his tithe would involve so much expense, and so thorough a change of system, that I despair of its being attempted. We must wait for a cadaster, and then take payment in money.” ’

Senior’s conversations


Hubert Parry,

I wrote to her Ladyship the same day. And never was her singular character more clearly displayed. Instead of being pleased at Maudie’s being safe, she was miserable on receiving the news. Mary said she turned quite pale and then burst into tears. She wrote to me and said she was horribly mortified at not having been present. Not because she loves Maudie or to sympathize with her, but because she loves the excitement of it, and delights in retailing the horrors with unlimited exaggeration to everyone she meets . . . Mary said that when my letter arrived she read it out (ostensibly) to them at breakfast. . . She was furious with me and with Dr Black for not sending for her immediately, though Maudie had told her long ago that it would kill her to have her in the room during her confinement . . . The many other exasperating things which she did would fill volumes if they were set down. And through them all alike runs a vein of blind egotism. I never saw so clearly before how every action she does, even her great charities and her profuse generosity, is prompted by the lowest vanity and egotism. She seems to me utterly without heart or sympathy, or truthfulness and honesty. A creature whom only the customs of society, which she worships as her real God, keeps from any conceivable enormity.’

Finished my first song


George Adamson,

‘Yesterday at our midday halt, Joy and myself were sitting on the ground next each other skinning a Vulturine guinea fowl. Presently we touched and it was like an electric current through me. It would be a very dirty trick to take advantage of the situation.’

A life of Joy and lions


Odd Nansen,

‘At half-past seven the district sheriff of East Gausdal came up to the cottage with two Germans. It was dark. We saw the sheriff’s flashlight a long way off. We thought he was hunting radios, as he came just at the suspicious hour.

It was for me. They said I must come away to Lillehammer, and then to Oslo, where I should be told the reason. I was given time to pack my knapsack. Kari was calm, Marit, Eigil, and Siri cried, poor things, but were smiling bravely through their tears before I left.

So off we went. The car was waiting at the sanatorium garage. The sheriff talked a lot in the car. No doubt he was anxious to gloss over his pitiful role. He wished me a speedy return when he went off at Segalstad Bridge.

I was put into the Lillehammer county jail. A single cell. When the jailer had gone, a voice in the cell next door asked who I was. It was Odd Wangs voice. He did not know why he had been arrested either, but thought it must be due to a misunderstanding. That I should have been arrested, he said, was natural enough, but that he. . . No, it was certainly a misunderstanding, which would be cleared up as soon as he got to Oslo and had a chance to explain himself. It had grown late, and we soon lay down. The light was left us until twelve o’clock, and we could read. The plank bed was hard, as plank beds are, but I was not cold, for we were given blankets.

One of the “Germans” turned out to be a purebred Norwegian. At the cottage he pretended to be German. Admiral Tank-Nielsen had spent the night before in my cell.

I heard about the new actions against special officers and against the friends of the royal family, who were all arrested at this time. I supposed I must come under the latter heading, and if so I should probably be “inside” until the war was over?’

What darkens prison life


Jerzy Feliks Urman,

‘My one and only Son! Two months have passed since that terrible day when evil people caused your death. Here I am writing that word, though I still can’t believe it. Sometimes it feels as if you’re just absent for a while, and sometimes I try to convince myself that we’ve hidden you in a safe place, to protect you from the degradation and atrocities of this incredible war until it’s over. Surely since the world began, there can never have been such a terrible disaster, devised by Satanic minds. Dear Son, Mother Earth has proved extremely merciful. She clasps everyone to her bosom, rich and poor alike, the poorest and the richest, people of any denomination and nationality, and is not governed by the cruel laws invented by our assassins, which hold that only people of ar [Aryan] origin are allowed to walk on her surface, whatever their worth of ability, to render service to to anyone else in life. My dear Son, now you’ve gone to another mother, surely more worthy of such a treasure than I, who failed to protect you. I envy her for hiding so many children in her bosom, but my little Kitten, you were all I had, and now I’m on my own. I no longer visit you twice a day [he was buried in the garden] as I used to, because I’m afraid to attract the attention of the klemp [dimwit]. I only say ‘Good morning’, and ‘Good night’, once, on Fridays before bed. Every time Daddy has tears in his eyes, because he’s reminded of home and all the happy times we spent together. Who could have foreseen that we were destined for such terrible homelessness, and that such a painful blow lay ahead of us! I’m perfectly aware that we’re not the only ones, but for us that’s poor consolation.’

Jerzyk’s tragic story


Bill Haley,

‘Finished picture. $20,000 for picture. Started 7.30 am on sixth day of picture. Had my big talking scenes today. Finished work on picture at 3 pm. Now it’s up to the public whether we’re movie stars or not. Worked in El Monte, California tonight - $1,500. Poor crowd. Promoter says disc jockeys are mad at me because I haven’t been able to see them. You can’t win. Hope I can straighten things out. Met Harry Tobias today. He gave me some songs for our firm.’

The rock and roll life


Cecil Harmsworth King,

‘Dinner at home last night for Mrs Thatcher and others. She comes across in the newspaper and on television as an aggressive sort of woman, creating enemies wherever she goes. This is not at all the sort of impression she makes in the flesh. She is attractive, highly intelligent and very sensible. She says the so-called liberals (the left-wingers, the long-haired, and all that group) are determined to get her out of office and will doubtless succeed.’

Cecil Harmsworth King


Ferdinand Marcos,

‘Imelda has a mass in the right breast and worries us because the doctors say that while there has been no change, an operation to remove it and to find out if it is malignant may be necessary.

I am suffering from pain in the right groin after golf. I hope it is not hernia. I see the doctor tomorrow.

And we were on a project to have another baby, a boy if possible. Massive injections of hormones for Imelda is necessary if we are to have a baby and this is not good for her growth in the breast which might develop into something serious with these hormones.’

Purpose into my life


Harold Frederick Shipman,

‘So depressed. If ?[illegible] says no then that is it. There is no possible way I can carry on, it would be a kindness to [].’

I’m looking at dying


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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.