And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

6 January

John Bartram,

‘Clear morning: thermometer 38. Strong wind at N. W. Set out and soon saw a great body of very different swamp and marsh joining it, some dry, others middling moist, and some very wet, some reedy soil, some myrtle, oak, cypress, and lastly pine; then we came a little farther to tall water-reeds on both sides, and much elder grew next the river and close to the reeds, which last grew very thick close to the bank, and from 14 to 16 foot high; sometimes a narrow ridge, about a rood wide and a foot or two high, would run close to the river, on which grew oaks, hiccory, maple, and ash, the ground back being scarcely above the common flow of the river; but as we rowed higher up, the soil was in many places of an unknown depth, of tenacious rich mud, especially on the Indian side, which is generally higher than ours, and so stiff that cattle may walk upon it very safe, and bears choice grass, though full of tall trees, as hiccory, maple, water-oak, and ash: We rowed by a very large island on the east side and another on the west, the best I have seen in Florida; the river, for these two days, has run very crooked. Landed on a high rich shelly bluff, some good flat soil, but full of palms, and a little back the pine-lands begin: The last frost killed the young shoots of ash, hiccory, eupatorium, peanines, sunflowers. and the tops of two lovely evergreen shrubs, one of which would have grown all winter, if the frost had not killed it; the bark was burst from the wood, but the lower part was not hurt, the other was full of flowers, green and ripe berries, yet the tender tops for half a foot were killed: ’Tis very common in this country for vegetables to produce at the same time flowers, green and ripe fruit; and if the tender shoots are by chance killed, they soon send out fresh ones; here is a native gourd or squash, which runs 20 foot up the trees, close to the river; the people eat them when young, but they are bitter when old, and about the size of a man’s fist.’

The father of American botany


Mary Coke,

‘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


Sanford Fleming,

‘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


Henri-Frédéric Amiel,

‘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


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


Ruth Crawford Seeger,

‘What is the soul? When it leaves the body we do not see it. And where is God? Everywhere? But what is he? Why can’t I know all these things? Because thou shouldst then know as much as God. Yes, true. But how -how I want to know it all.’

What poems people are


Robert Musil,

‘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


Marie Vassiltchikov,

‘After dressing, we ventured out into the darkness and luckily found a taxi on the Kurfurstendamm which took us to a ball at the Chilean Embassy off the Tiergarten. Our host, Morla, was Chilean Ambassador in Madrid when the Civil War broke out. Although their own government favoured the Republicans, they gave shelter to more than 3,000 persons, who would otherwise have been shot and who hid out in the Chilean Embassy for three years, sleeping on the floors, the stairs, wherever there was space; and notwithstanding great pressure from the Republican Government, the Morlas refused to hand over a single person. This is all the more admirable considering that the Duke of Alba’s brother, a descendant of the Stuarts, who had sought refuge at the British Embassy, was politely turned away and subsequently arrested and shot.

The ball was lovely, quite like in pre-war days At first I feared I would not know many people, but soon I realised that I knew quite a few from last winter. [Missie had visited Tatiana in Berlin in the winter of 1938-1939.] Among those we met for the first time were the Welczeck girls, both very beautiful and terribly well dressed. Their father was the last German Ambassador in Paris. Their brother Hansi and his lovely bride Sigi von Laffert were also there, and many other friends, including Ronnie Clary, a very handsome boy, just out of Louvain University, who speaks perfect English - which was rather a relief, as my German is not quite up to the mark yet. Most of the young men present are at Krampnitz, an officers’ tank training school just outside of Berlin. Later, Rosita Serrano [a popular Chilean chanteuse] sang, addressing little Eddie Wrede, aged nineteen, as ‘Bel Ami’, which flattered him enormously. We had not danced for ages and returned home at 5 a.m., all piled in the car of Cartier, a Belgian diplomat, who is a friend of the Welczecks.’

A Russian princess in Nazi Berlin


George Adamson,

‘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


Northrop Frye,

‘Lectures all morning. In Milton I dealt with the paradox of evil as a metaphysical negation & a moral fact, comparing it with the conception of cold in physics. Somebody asked me why chaos existed. I said all conceptions of the universe, not just the Einsteinian, are limited, & chaos marks the limit of that which is created by God yet is not God. There can be nothing beyond chaos, because there can be nothing beyond God; but God‘s power radiates to the limit of matter, or creation, hence there has to be chaos, or as near to pure matter as is conceivable, at that limit. I said that God’s power is a vision to angels, a mystery to men, an automatic instinct in animals, plants &, according to the 17th c., minerals, and operates as luck or chance in chaos, hence Satan’s footslip. That the 19th c, influenced by the prestige of biological & other sciences, had looked downward from the human mystery & seen the world as a mechanism, and that the 20th c., peering through that, had struck probability & the “principle of indeterminacy” at the bottom of it. A touch of glibness there, as there is in a lot of what I say. [. . .]

Marjorie King has just phoned to say that Harold [KingJ] is dead. Heart attack striking without warning last night. Harold was as lovable a person as I knew, & I shall miss him intensely: it’s one of the few deaths I have experienced that hurt. She wants me to do the funeral: I always refuse marriages, but I don’t see how I can refuse this - actually my attitude to marriages may be ungracious. I suppose when people ask me they want either a personal touch or less religion than they get from professionals. Personal touches are out of place at funerals there one wants only to see the great wheels of the Church rolling by. It is much more of an imposition than Marjorie realizes, as the death is a considerable shock to me, even if it cannot be compared with the shock to her. As for the religion, all one can do at a funeral is proclaim the fact of resurrection: any funeral that doesn’t do that is just variations on “Behold, he stinketh” [John 11:39].’

Buggering around aimlessly


Eric Morecambe,

‘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


Maria Colvin,

‘Wore pants. Blue dungaree bell bottoms. Hard playing instrument, pants are so tight.

Like being an upended turtle


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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.