And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

30 January

1623
William Whiteway,
politician

‘This day about one a clocke in the afternoone this towne tooke on fire in the house of mr John Adin in the higher parish, burnt 27 houses in that parish thereabouts, to the value of £3500 sterling. One man was burnt in William Shepherds house, to wit Edmond Benvenue, who running home, all blacke and deformed by the fire, and being followed by some friends, they Laboured to stay him to have him drest, was met by mr Cokers man Jaspar Arnold. He thinking him to be some felon, had a pole in his hand, and beate him with it greivously, and stroke him downe. He died within two daies. The Kings Majestie granted for it a Collection over all England.’

The towne took on fire

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1785
Mary Coke,
noblewoman

‘I passed an hour with Mr Walpole this evening and was surprised to find him so much recovered though still weak; he told me he had a bad fall the day before by imprudently rising from his chair without his stick and hurt himself so much that he imagined it would bring the gout again but contrary to his expectations he had slept the whole night and was quite well in the morning.’

Violent, absurd and mad

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1886
William Daunt,
politician

‘Parnell and his party have turned out the Tory Government. . .’

The Irish Difficulty

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1924
Siegfried Sassoon,
writer

‘The last ten days have been mostly night for me. January 20 was the last day on which I ‘lunched’ before 4 p.m. Mrs Binks encourages me to carry on my routine as if the Turners weren't here, and brings me up kippers etc. at 5 p.m. (rather to the annoyance, I suspect, of Turner). But I’ve been making full use of my D.N.B. exploration impulse.

It was in October 1920 that I began to file my way out of prison by a systematic effort to form an individual vocabulary. In the last few days (particularly when I read the New Statesman proof of ‘Primitive Ritual’) I have felt as if the door is beginning to swing slowly back.

Yesterday morning, after lying awake from 4.15 to 7.15, I got up to get a drink of water in the bathroom. Watching the milkman looming at our gate in foggy twilight, Chatterton came into my thoughts, with a sense of exquisite emotion. I skipped him in the D.N.B. when I was searching for clowns, criminals, eccentrics, and forgotten poets, and knew little of his work or the details of his life. But the picture in the Tate Gallery has always appealed to me, with its glimpse of summer daybreak through the garret window, and the ‘home from the ball’ beauty of the dead boy on the bed. So I have since read about him in the D.N.B. (‘It is wonderful how the whelp has written such things’ said Dr Johnson) and cursed Horace Walpole for not sparing him twenty guineas which might have saved a second Spenser to the world; and ended by reading ‘Sweet his tongue as a throstle’s note’ in the Oxford Book of English Verse. As I went to the club ‘I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous boy’, and when I got there I searched the library for books about him.

All this excitement has ended in a sonnet and I am feeling pleased. How rarely one gets that sort of excitement about literature. (And how little authentic information there is about Chatterton.)’

A fool’s paradise of poetry

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1936
Harold Nicolson,
politician and writer

‘Dr Broadbent has telephoned to say that B.M. [Lady Sackville] cannot live through the day. Vita goes down by the 12 noon train and I promise to follow as soon as I have put off all my engagements. Reach Brighton at 2 p.m. and go to White Lodge. Go straight up to B. M.’s room and find that she has died some three minutes before, quite painlessly and without recovering consciousness. Take Vita into the other room. Rhind [Lady Sackville’s secretary] is much upset but behaves well. The solicitor arrives and also the priest. The latter is disgusting and refuses to have a service over B.M. if she is to be cremated. She has left a pathetic little typewritten notice saying that she was to be cremated and the ashes flung into the sea. Vita is much harassed and shattered, but inwardly, I think, relieved.’

For one’s great-grandson

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1945
Charles McMoran Wilson,
doctor

‘I turned in soon after we were in the air to get some sleep, as we were to land at Malta between four and five in the morning; an hour later Sawyers pulled my curtain back and said that the P.M. had a temperature - a good beginning to a winter journey of three thousand miles. The P.M. blames my sulphaguanadine tablets, which he has been taking during the day. As they are not absorbed from the gut, they could not be responsible, but the P.M. has views on everything, and his views on medicine are not wanting in assurance.

He was restless, and I soon gave up any attempt to sleep. He asked me if I would like to send for Whitby, the pathologist, and what about Clemmie? - the Moscow performance over again. He has developed a bad habit of running a temperature on these journeys.

It is not the flesh only that is weaker. Martin tells me that his work has deteriorated a lot in the last few months; and that he has become very wordy, irritating his colleagues in the Cabinet by his verbosity. One subject will get in his mind to the exclusion of all others - Greece, for example.

Winston stayed in bed in the plane till noon, when he was taken to H.M.S. Orion. He rested until the evening, when Harriman came to dinner. Only this morning he was in the doldrums when, turning his face to the wall, he had called for Clemmie. Surely this bout of fever should put sense into his head. But Winston is a gambler, and gamblers do not count the coins in their pockets. He will not give a thought to nursing his waning powers. And now, when it was nearly midnight, he demanded cards and began to play bezique with Harriman. Damn the fellow, will he never give himself a chance?’

A third dose of pneumonia

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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, usually several every week. The blog has been publishing for over five years, and is the secondary source for the diary extracts in this online anthology.