And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

2 January

Robert Boyle,

‘Take Aquila Cælestis & dissolve it in as much water as will barely suffice for the solution of it, In this Liquor dissolve as much Sal Infernalis as you can in a gentle heat Then let it stand in the open aire, (stirring it often) till the humidity be evaporated & the bodies united this masse you may if need be once more moisten/original pagination, with the Solution of the Infernall Salt & to make it dry the sooner you may Incorporate it with sifted bone=ashes & when it is perfectly dry draw it over with a strong fire & if need be severall Cohobations, In like maner you may imbibe the fixt Salt of the Homogeneous Menstruum with as much of the dissolvd volatile Salt or Sp: of the same as the fixt salt will retaine & Conjunction being made in the open aire the united Salts may be drawne over with Due Cohobation as formerly’.

Robert Boyle’s workdiaries


Jonathan Edwards
, theologian

‘These things established, - That time gained in things of lesser importance, is as much gained in things of greater; that a minute gained in times of confusion, conversation, or in a journey, is as good as minute gained in my study, at my most retired times; and so, in general, that a minute gained at one time is as good as at another.’

Sinking so exceedingly


John Bartram,

‘White frost on the boat; thermometer 35. Set out to view the cove, which was surrounded with extensive marshes on the south-side, on the east and west with marshes, several hundred yards wide, then a narrow cypress-swamp joined to the common pine-land; we came again into the river 80 yards broad, which ran at first a south course, then bended east for several miles: We saw very extensive marshes on each side (with several short cypress-trees and maple-hammocks interspersed) until we came to a pond on the south, soon after which we landed and climbed up a tree, from which we had a prospect of the lake lying N. W. with an extensive marsh between: We observed many short willows, but the woody swamps are chiefly black and white ash, with red maple next the river, and generally a cypress-swamp interposed between the pine-lands and swamps of ash; we rowed several courses in sight of extensive marshes and swamps, 2. 3 or 4 miles wide more or less; the river was pretty high, 2 foot above the driest times, by reason of the great rains, yet it barely covered the swamps even in pretty low places, but indeed there is little difference in their height for scores of miles, unless near the palmetto and pine-lands: We landed on a shelly bluff of 2 or three acres of sour orange-trees full of fruit; then rowing along the cypress-trees, which grew here next the river, a deep swamp interposed between the cypress and pine-lands; we came to Clement’s Bluff, where we encamped on a shelly bank 12 foot perpendicular; the lower part next the water was an indurated shelly rock, the bluff is 300 yards long and one broad, more or less, beyond which it gradually declines back to a fine savannah, then to the pine lands, palmetto and shrubby oaks; this is on the west-side of the river, as is the orange-grove; thermometer 48. P. M.’

The father of American botany


Count de Benyovszky,
soldier and explorer

‘On the 2d, I sold my vessel to a Portugueze merchant, for the sum of four thousand five hundred piastres, ready money, and as much on credit: the Governor reserved to himself the whole of the stores.’

The king of Madagascar


William Macready,

‘My performance this evening of Macbeth afforded me a striking evidence of the necessity there is for thinking over my characters previous to playing, and establishing, by practice if necessary, the particular modes of each scene and important passage. I acted with much energy, but could not (as I sometimes can, when holding the audience in wrapt attention) listen to my own voice, and feel the truth of its tones. It was crude, and uncertain, though spirited and earnest; but much thought is yet required to give an even energy and finished style to all the great scenes of the play, except perhaps the last, which is among the best things I am capable of. Knowles is ravished with his own acting, and the supposed support it has met with. I wish I was with mine.’

Acted Macbeth very unequally


Charles Graves,

‘Walked to the office, though it was bitterly cold, by way of the Embankment. The Temple has certainly caught it again, and there was a continuous sound of broken glass being swept from the pavement and knocked-down windows. [. . .] Lunched at the Press Club, where I was told that the crater near Piccadilly Circus has caused nine people to fall and break some limb during the past three nights. It is high time that Marylebone and Westminster improved their system of lighting where the road is blocked and bomb craters have been formed.’

A hell of a night


General Basilio Valdes,
doctor and politician

‘After luncheon the President, Mrs. Quezon and their children were seated in the hospital tunnel [Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor], between laterals 11 & 9 where we were lodged. Two bombs fell on the hill on top of the tunnel, one of them near the main entrance. The whole mountain shook. Suddenly a terrific explosion was heard. A bomb had fallen 20 yards from the kitchen exit of the hospital tunnel. The lights were extinguished as a bomb had hit a generator. As the noise of the explosion was heard, simultaneously with the extinguishing of the lights, someone ordered aloud “everybody lie on the floor”. I did not do it as I thought it was absurd and ridiculous. I went to lateral 11 to get my flashlight from my bed and when I entered it I found the High Commissioner, Mrs. Sayre and his assistants lying on the cement floor. Someone turned on a flashlight. I saw the President, holding Mrs. Quezon moving towards his bed. There they sat. I took my flashlight and rushed back to the main hospital tunnel to see if someone else was been hurt. No one - Thank God! I sat down and waited.’

Aurora Quezon’s bomb fuse


George Adamson,

‘Went along the river bank with Joy and called a croc. She radiated sex and I only just managed to keep a hold on myself.’

A life of Joy and lions


Northrop Frye,

‘This being the New Year’s Day of practice, as distinct from theory, I paid tribute to it by buggering around aimlessly all morning, and then went down to the office in the afternoon. It was a foggy day - one of the heaviest fogs I’ve ever seen here, and I should think that those who obediently get gloomy in gloomy weather would go into reverse & feel exhilarated with the mystery & glamour that a fog spreads over things. My Hudson Review was in the mail, and I spent some time gloating over it: I’m getting to be a terrible intellectual narcist. Saw Ned [Pratt], who has been converted to John Sutherland by a friendly letter, & who tells me Mrs. Ford is dead. Came home and voted. I plumped for May Birchard for alderman again, but she still didn’t make it, though she was close. The Sunday sport issue went pro, greatly to my surprise. Both Protestants & the Cardinal had gone against it, two of the three papers who had been for it had ratted midway (the third, the Star, was against it anyway) and not a candidate except Lamport had dared to open his mouth in favor if it. It indicates that “public opinion” that everyone is afraid of is largely a matter of lobbying and organized minorities.’

Buggering around aimlessly


John Lowe, miner

‘Back to the grind with the alarm set for 4.15am. We must be bloody crackers. Seven of us turned up for the first picket and we were disappointed to find only one policeman on duty, the idle swines.’

How bloody corrupt


Ken Wilber,
religious author

‘Worked all morning, research and reading, while watching the sunlight play through the falling snow. The sun in not yellow today, it is white, like the snow, so I am surrounded by white on white, alone on alone. Sheer Emptiness, soft clear light, is what it all looks like, shimmering to itself in melancholy murmurs. I am released into that Emptiness, and all is radiant on this clear light day.’

On sheer emptiness


Max Bygraves
, singer and presenter

‘One thing that is noticeable about my diaries of the past is that they all start off with good intentions - the months of January and February are always quite full with entries, but then I either get lazy, or else nothing noteworthy seems to happen. When the summer arrives I only ever seem to jot down such entries as ‘golf’, ‘laid in garden’ or ‘planted some tomatoes’, etc, etc.

In the summer of my 1996 diary I am surprised to see how many blank pages there are, and not because there was nothing happening - in fact I had a most busy time. Contracted for a ten-week season at Bournemouth’s Pavilion Theatre, every show a different audience, relatives coming to stay, fly-fishing on the River Test a couple of days each week, golf with good friends like Gordon Dean, directors from the BBC in London to talk over proposed shows, phone-ins, charity appearances etc. (The strangest charity show was to cut the ribbon at a pedestrian crossing on the Poole Road, to allow old folk from a retirement home to cross without having to walk a quarter of a mile down the road to another crossing). Looking back, there are quite a few entries that I could have made interesting, so I can only plead laziness!

After cutting that tape on the Poole Road, I was invited back to the home for tea and cakes. Because I am in the business of entertainment I am usually button-holed by the senior citizens to do something about the appalling quality of programmes on television. They must think that I am some form of Mary Whitehouse. One lady, while making a point, made the company laugh when she said: “Why don’t they do something about all that swearing on TV? It’s bloody disgusting!”

I just have to stand there helpless. All I can do is nod and agree, but they think that I can just pick up the phone and say to the Director-General: “Now look here, folk don’t like four-letter words that they hear on TV. With very little being done to chastise the guilty actors and directors you should do something about it - after all, you’re the boss!”

That’s what they think that I can do. And I have to pass it all off with a shrug by saying: “It’s not bloody right is it!” A sneaky way to get out of an argument with a little of what they call comic relief.

Another entry is for May 16th. I promised to appear for Jack (known as John) Profumo at Toynbee Hall in the East End of London. John does such wonderful work at the ‘Hall’ for the poor and deprived - not just now, but for many years past. One stupid mistake forever labelled him as the man who brought down the Tory government because of the Christine Keeler affair. The country lost a very good bloke.

I knew him slightly before the Keeler affair, when he was Minister for War. It was during those days that we went to different parts of the world entertaining our troops. John was such a gentleman, and a real pleasure to talk with - he didn’t become charming after the affair. His wife, former actress Valerie Hobson, is a sweetie too. They both work hard at Toynbee Hall. You know what I’d like to do? I’d like to walk down Park Lane holding the biggest banner that I could carry, emblazoned with the words: ‘John Profumo and Co ... public benefactor . . . let’s hear it for John!’

Another entry is for Monday, April 22nd 1996. All I noted down was ‘QE2 to New York.’ This turned out to be one of the best trips ever on this lovely ship. I am not quite sure if it was my eighth or ninth voyage, but it was really enjoyable. My son Anthony came with me to help out with the lighting, look after the props, take the bandcall and be general dogsbody. He is good company and we get along well.

The other joyful part was that my good friend Gordon Dean and his attractive wife also came aboard to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary - a cruise to New York, then fly back to Heathrow on Concorde. We shared a table with two other good friends from Bournemouth - Jim and Jane, so the six of us had some splendid meals in the Queens grill. Colin, the mâitre d’ excelled - every dish was a banquet.

I did two concerts in the main lounge, which had been refurbished since our last trip. I thought that the good old QE2 had suffered badly with the publicity surrounding the fact that she had not being ready in time on a previous trip. Many of the passengers had complained and Cunard had been forced to pay out some pretty hefty sums in compensation. On this trip, however, all faults had been rectified and we were there to enjoy it. The audience appeared to enjoy my stint and I finished by doing several encores and everyone was most complimentary.’

Planted some tomatoes


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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.