And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

6 January

1769
Mary Coke,
noblewoman

‘Before he [Mr Walpole] came in, the Princess showed me the lines he had sent her engraved in the lid of the box; to which she had ordered to be added, that it was given her by the Honourable Horatio Walpole, son of that great Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, Earl of Orford. Nothing, I think, could be more polite to Mr Walpole, and he seemed to be of that opinion when she showed it him, only saying that he was quite ashamed of her goodness.’

Violent, absurd and mad

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1848
Sanford Fleming,
engineer

‘In the forenoon today I have been engaged sketching out a plan for the Town Hall at Cobourg. Afternoon I volunteered my services to take out two voters to the Township of Scott about 50 miles from Toronto. We started about 5 oclock P.M. and slept in Buffalo robes at the village of Stouffville 30 miles out.’

Adieu to my youth

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1853
Henri-Frédéric Amiel,
philosopher

‘Self-government with tenderness - here you have the condition of all authority over children. The child must discover in us no passion, no weakness of which he can make use; he must feel himself powerless to deceive or to trouble us; then he will recognize in us his natural superiors, and he will attach a special value to our kindness, because he will respect it. The child who can rouse in us anger, or impatience, or excitement, feels himself stronger than we, and a child only respects strength. The mother should consider herself as her child’s sun, a changeless and ever radiant world, whither the small restless creature, quick at tears and laughter, light, fickle, passionate, full of storms, may come for fresh stores of light, warmth, and electricity, of calm and of courage. The mother represents goodness, providence, law; that is to say, the divinity, under that form of it which is accessible to childhood. If she is herself passionate, she will inculcate on her child a capricious and despotic God, or even several discordant gods. The religion of a child depends on what its mother and its father are, and not on what they say. The inner and unconscious ideal which guides their life is precisely what touches the child; their words, their remonstrances, their punishments, their bursts of feeling even, are for him merely thunder and comedy; what they worship, this it is which his instinqt divines and reflects.

The child sees what we are, behind what we wish to be. Hence his reputation as a physiognomist. He extends his power as far as he can with each of us; he is the most subtle of diplomatists. Unconsciously he passes under the influence of each person about him, and reflects it while transforming it after his own nature. He is a magnifying mirror. This is why the first principle of education is: train yourself; and the first rule to follow if you wish to possess yourself of a child’s will is: master your own.’

The most beautiful poem

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1868
John Sarsfield Casey,
civil servant

‘Glorious morning promising another broiling day - Still a dead calm - ship scarcely moving - went about 5 knots per hour during the night. Spanish vessel still in sight about 5 miles to NE of us. Mass on board. Dread that this calm will continue for some time - 12 OC - Not a ripple on the surface of the waters shining like a plate of fretted gold. How slowly creep the hours in those calms especially as we are so near our destination. Nothing to read - nothing to discuss - nothing to while away an hour with except to sit in a state of dreamy thoughtfulness watching the sea birds skimming over the surface of the water - your thoughts wandering back to the green hills the shady groves & the pleasant valleys of “That beautiful land far away; That isle of the blue sea carressed; Where the fields are so green & the mountains so grey; In this isle far away in the West”.

Such a life is intolerable. 4 OC - Supper - Cry on deck of - A Shark A Shark - all hands rush on deck in a state of great excitement and in an instant bulwarks & forecastle are crowded. I too rush up and from the forecastle obtain a glimpse of the huge monster as he slowly glides through the blue waters beneath his green eyes gleaming with a fierce and ominous expression and his body assuming the most gorgeous colours - the principal being a bright emerald green. Two immense fins project beneath the jaws. A bait is thrown out attached to a strong iron hook - in an instant he perceives it & slowly and noiselessly glides towards it. When within two feet of it he turns on his back XXX opens his voracious jaws - exhibiting to the spectators two rows of sharp saw like teeth.’

The Galtee Boy

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1930
Robert Musil,
writer

‘Since the start of the year I’ve been wanting to write things down. Aim: to record how my 50th year of life turns out! But also, in a quite aimless fashion, to record facts. I have become too abstract and would like to use this method to help me retrain as a narrator by paying attention to the circumstances of everyday life.’

A man with qualities

**************************************************************************************

1943
George Adamson,
conservationist

‘In the evening we had drinks, while I went into the bush Joy filled up my glass with neat brandy. I pretended not to notice and drank it down. When we were going to bed our eyes met. If Bally had not been there we would have slept together.’

A life of Joy and lions

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1968
Eric Morecambe,
performer

‘Waldorf Astoria, New York. Today is a hard day. Two or three run throughs at the theatre, now called the Ed Sullivan Theatre, on Broadway. Then a quick lunch and a music run in the afternoon. Saw the name Morecambe & Wise on the front of the theatre - first time on Broadway. Mind you, it won’t be there for long. We do the show tomorrow, so it will be taken down tomorrow night. Got back to the hotel and the phone is flashing. It’s Fred Harris, an Englishman who works in New York for the Grade Delfont office. We stayed in the Waldorf for drinks as it was too cold to go out. We got slowly pissed, then went and had a bowl of soup downstairs in the cafe. This would be 12.30am. I then said, ‘Goodnight.’ He didn’t speak, got a cab and went home. I went back to my furnace of a room and fell asleep. I didn’t even switch on the TV.’

Hammers inside my head

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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, 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.