And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

5 January

John Evelyn,

Whitehall burned, nothing but walls and ruins left. [In fact, Inigo Jones’s Banqueting House survived the fire.]

A most excellent person


John Byrom,
poet and landowner

‘At night Houghton, Lloyd, and I came to the King’s Head, and the club being there, viz. two Hoadlys, Brown, Ray. I brought them in, and we had brawn and beefsteaks, and talked about Cheselden and the drum of the man Ray’s ear, and about the Royal Society, and futurity. Houghton and I went into the city, saw Salkeld at Will’s, who treated us with chocolate; thence we followed a man in a Turkish dress, I spoke and paid for a barrel of oysters to the woman at the Cross Keys; to Moorfields, where I bought J. Lead, Pordage, 1s. apiece; thence to Castlon’s the type maker, where Houghton and I went into the printing cutting place; he was married to another wife, who made excuses for his undress, we drank a pint of wine at the Swan, and he said types could not be made for our shorthand.’

Byrom’s universal shorthand


William Bentley,

‘We now have seriously the Cold of Winter. The Therm, at Zero. Politics become more sour as the severity of winter increases. Why the Embargo? say all. Some reply, because of France. Some of England. Some hope it will make the administration unpopular. Others wish to complain but they dare not give the opposition so much pleasure. Where interest prevails & patriotism is little known, we can hope nothing from the latter without some present hopes of the former. Prosperity has been at the helm & has corrupted us. Integrity cannot command, without hazard, that obedience will be refused. Failures are expected & the Nat[ional] Int[elligencer] tells us that the daring speculations of individuals deserve to be exposed & prevented. The embargo is general. The attempt to exempt the Fisheries, tho’ supported by all the members from Massachusetts, was unavailing.’

Society in Salem


Gabrielle West,
policewoman and carer

‘Marching orders again! This time, instead of giving or getting notice, we have been promoted. Buckie to sub-inspector and me to sergeant. We both go to Pembrey in South Wales in three days’ time.

But I must say a little more about this place. The factory is occupied making the following: Sulphuric acid, Nitric acid, Oleum, Guncotton, TNT. The result is the most terrific collection of stinks, or ‘fumes’, to put it less baldly, that you could possibly imagine. For patrolling purposes it is divided into four areas:

1. The Grills, consisting of five sulphur burners, acid coolers, platinizing plant etc. The burners each have forty furnaces, twenty doors on either side. Occasionally for cleaning purposes, ‘the blowers are taken off’. Exactly what that means, I don’t know, but the result is most fascinating. [. . . ]

2. Guncotton. The first few times you go round you think. ‘What an interesting place’, and are just brimming over with questions. Then one joyous day you are taken round by the sergeant and told exactly what everything is for and how everything is done. The next time or two, you are quite happy trotting round new constables and airing all your recently acquired knowledge. After a bit, they know as much as you do, or they think they do. After that, the guncotton ceases to interest you and the evil smell from the guncotton retorts becomes more noticeable.

3. The TNT stinks; no other word describes it - an evil, sickly chokey smell that makes you cough until you feel sick. But even the TNT is not so absolutely suffocating and overwhelming as the:

4. Middle Section. Here sulphuric is turned into nitric, and nitric into oleum. The air is filled with white fumes and yellow fumes and brown fumes. The particles of acid land on your face and make you nearly mad with a feeling like pins and needles, only more so, and they land on your clothes and make brown spots all over them, and they rot your hankies so that they come back from the laundry in rags, and they get up your nose and down your throat and into your eyes so that you are blind and speechless by the time you escape.

All over the place, there are, to cheer you on your way, notices telling you what to do if anyone swallows brown fumes: If concerned, give an emetic; If blue in the face, apply artificial respiration, and if necessary, oxygen.

Being quite sure you have swallowed numberless brown fumes, this is distinctly cheering. Each time you leave Middle Section, you feel like Dante returning from Hell.’

No larking or slacking


Mikhail Bulgakov,

‘The weather in Moscow is something quite extraordinary: in the thaw everything has melted, and the mood amongst Muscovites precisely mirrors the weather. The weather suggests February, and there’s February in people’s hearts.

“How’s this all going to end?” a friend asked me today.

Such questions are asked in a dull, mechanical way, hopelessly, indifferently, any way you like. Just at that moment there was a group of drunken communists in my friend’s apartment, in a room right across the corridor. In the corridor itself there was a foully pungent smell - one of the Party members, my friend told me, was asleep there like a pig, completely drunk. Someone had invited him. and my friend hadn’t been able to refuse. Again and again he went into their room with a polite and ingratiating smile on his face. They kept shouting to him to join them. He kept coming back to me, cursing them in a whisper. Yes, right: somehow this must all stop. I believe it will!

Went specially today to the publishers of the Atheist. It’s situated in Stoleshnikov Alley or, rather, in Kozmodemyanovsky, not far from the Moscow City Council building. M.S. was with me and he delighted me from the first.

“What, aren’t they smashing in your windows?” he asked the first girl we came across, sitting at a desk.

“What do you mean?” (confused). “No, they aren’t” (threateningly).

“What a pity.”

I wanted to kiss him on his Jewish nose. It turned out that there were no copies from 1913 left. All sold, they reported proudly. We managed to get hold of the first eleven back numbers from 1924. Number 12 had not yet appeared. When she found out that I was a private individual, the young lady, if that’s the right way to descibe her, gave them to me reluctantly.

“I should really be giving this to a library.”

Apparently they have a print run of 70,000, and it’s a total sellout. There are some unspeakable swine in the office who keep on leaving the room and coming back in again; and a small stage, curtains, scenery... On a table on the stage there’s some sacred book, a bible perhaps, with a couple of heads bent over it.

“Just like a synagogue,” said M. as we were leaving the building.

I was very interested to know just how much this had all been said for my special benefit. It would be wrong of course to exaggerate, but I have the impression that some of the people who have been reading The White Guard in Russia use a different tone of voice when speaking to me - with a kind of oblique, apprehensive deference.

I was very struck by M.’s reaction to the extract from The White Guard. It could be described as rapturous, but even before this I’d had this feeling growing inside me, a process that had been going on for some three days. I will be terribly sorry if I’m mistaken and if The White Guard is not an exceptional piece.

When I skimmed through the copies of the Atheist at home this evening I was shocked. The salt was not in the blasphemy, although that was huge, of course, if you’re looking at it just from the outside. The salt was in the idea, an idea that can be historically proved. Even Jesus Christ was being depicted as a crook and a scoundrel. It’s not difficult to understand who’s responsible for this. The offence is immeasurable.’

Manuscripts don’t burn


Anthony Eden,

‘At least we have given nothing away to Italy. It remains to be seen whether what we have gained will prove of any material value. Time alone will show and nothing would be more foolish than openly to attempt to pull Mussolini away from Hitler.’The 1st Earl of Avon

The 1st Earl of Avon


Joseph Goebbels,

‘The Fuehrer sent word to me that he does not desire the circulation of the Stuermer reduced or that it should cease publication altogether. I am very happy about this decision. The Fuehrer stands by his old Party members and fellow fighters and won’t let occasional trouble and differences affect him. Because he is so loyal to his co-workers, they, in turn, are equally faithful to him.’

The Nuremberg ten


Kenneth Williams,
actor and writer

‘It is always so easy for me to read what I have just written and find it vastly entertaining and well done. It seems that everything I accomplish is of enormous interest to me and I am full of admiration for myself. Is this a good thing? Or does it much matter whether it is or not? Enough of this self-analysis. Too fashionable by half in this day and age.’

Carry on carping


Leopold Tyrmand,

‘I thought that the notebook in which I am keeping this diary would last me for a few months, but now I doubt I’ll fit in all of January. And it devours energy and time. But it draws me in. [. . .]

I took a tram today across Leszno Street and Iron Street to the East-West Route. There, you can still see a good bit of old Warsaw from before the cataclysm. The ugly tenement houses from the turn of the century, so despised by the prewar aesthetes and social do-gooders dreaming of glass houses, have been burnished with a patina of charm by the passing years, sentiment, and ill fortune. They evoke the shoddiness of yesteryear which nostalgia has already ennobled. Especially since they are neighbours to the socrealism of the new Muranow housing estate, which looks like a group of cakes from a street peddler’s basket: small stucco tympanums stuck on as if by a confectioner over oblong windows straight out of primitive functionalism. Facades like dirty icing on a stale cake.

Supper at the Writers’ Club among the same faces, all reflecting the dullness of the choice they made. That’s what it seems like to me, but I may be wrong. Maybe they have sleepless nights, only I don’t know it. The atmosphere at the Club is like that of a prewar Jewish boarding house in Otwock, except that it’s more expensive here, and the food is worse. Everyone knows and dislikes everyone else.

In the afternoon my liver was aching. What’s that about? Hardly a drop of vodka passes my lips; I drink herbal infusions. Could it be that my health, which until now I have boasted about, and which has carried me so reliably through the war, camps, prisons, and private passions, has now been knocked out by infectious hepatitis? But no matter. I already have thirty-three years clocked. For my generation, that’s a ripe old age.

In the evening Bogna showed up, in a foul mood. I also wasn’t exactly in the pink, so there was tension in the air from the start. Getting undressed, she turned out the light, which she usually doesn’t do, and then in the dark she knocked over the humidifier hanging on the radiator, spilling water all over the freshly waxed parquet floor. Nothing sets me off quite like an attack on the shine of my floor, but we were already kind of down to fundamentals, and a fight about spilled water would have been farcical. Instead, when it was all over I just said, “Listen Bogna, I know that your sixteen years and my loathsome pedantry put together are pure surrealism. Isn’t it better to end it?” To that, Bogna, sated, calmly replied, “Uh-huh. You always talk like that when you’ve gotten off.” ’

Cramming preserves into a jar


Sarah Stamford,

‘Got a prospectus from the City Literary Institute. Decided to leave it until the Whitsun term as I seem to be too late for the current series of classes.

Did some work for Miss Handley in the Publications Office. She must be about forty and is quite funny. She’s pleasant-looking. but her eves never seem to be firmly fixed into her face. She keeps saving how I am being so helpful, but actually I am just pleased to have something to do. Or maybe she is simply being polite. Lunch with Gill and Adrienne, then went shopping with Gill in British Home Stores. In the evening I went to the cinema to see Start the Revolution Without Me with a couple of old school friends. One of them is going to work at the British Film Institute in the stills archives. Funny, because that’s the sort of job I would like to do, but I’m probably better off in the long run at the BBC. I might leave the SBC in a year or so - I don’t think it would be healthy for me to stay for too long. I might die of boredom.’

Not a lot for me to do today


Roy Jenkins,

‘I became extremely depressed on reading the newspapers, and decided that the French monkeying around on MCAs and holding up the start of the EMS meant that Europe was in danger of falling apart and that I had better try and do something about it. Therefore I did some vigorous telephoning to Brussels and set up a meeting for the Sunday morning in Paris with Barre with the intention at least of trying fully to understand the French point of view. The commercial planes being totally unreliable, I set up an avion taxi from Northolt to Brussels at 3.45.

In the meantime I had an early lunch with Harold Lever at Brooks’s and found him buoyant and very sensible on nearly everything. My agreement with him, as with Shirley, is now very close indeed. He is of course much more interested than Shirley in economic and monetary matters and remains a firm partisan of EMS. He is depressed about the Government, but not excessively so, and thinks it might easily win the election. He intends to stand himself again and is obviously quite keen to go on in the Cabinet if he can. But when I suggested to him at the end that if they were still in office after Nicko* and wanted to make a political appointment to Paris he and Diane would do it well, he responded rather enthusiastically.’

A fairly burdensome exercise


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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.