And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

11 July

1689
John Evelyn,
writer

‘I dined at Lord Clarendon’s, it being his lady’s wedding day, when about three in the afternoon there was an unusual and violent storm of thunder, rain, and wind; many boats on the Thames were overwhelmed, and such was the impetuosity of the wind as to carry up the waves in pillars and spouts most dreadful to behold, rooting up trees and ruining some houses. The Countess of Sunderland afterward told me that it extended as far as Althorpe at the very time, which is seventy miles from London. It did no harm at Deptford, but at Greenwich it did much mischief.’

A most excellent person

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1699
Richard Newdigate,
landowner

‘Took four Quarts of Posset Drink. . . At four afternoon eat boiled loin of Mutton, then drank burnt Wine, yet continued unwell. So discoursing several, spent this day.’

But I spied crabs

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1792
Elizabeth Simcoe,
artist and wife of colonial governor

‘The Indians came to dance before the Governor, highly painted and in their war costume, with little clothing. They were near enough to the house for me to hear their singing, which sounded like a repetition in different dismal tones of he, he, he, and at intervals a savage whoop. They had a skin stretched on sticks imitating a drum, which they beat with sticks. Having drank more than usual, they continued singing the greatest part of the night. They never quarrel with white people unless insulted by them, but are very quarrelsome amongst themselves. Therefore, when the women see them drunk they take away their knives, and hide them until they become sober.

This evening I walked through a pretty part of the wood and gathered capillaire and a very pretty, small flower, five white petals of an exceeding firm texture, the purple short chives which support the anther of the flower proceeding from a purple rim that surrounds a very prominent green seed-vessel, on long foot stalks; from the top of the stalk the leaves spear shaped, sawed, polished, of the darkest green, and almost as firm as holly; numerous. It grows in very shady places, an evergreen. I was driven home by the bite of a mosquito through a leather glove. My arm inflamed so much that after supper I fainted with the pain while playing at chess with Capt. Littlehales.’

Travels in Upper Canada

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1810
Benjamin Haydon,
artist

‘In passing Piccadilly I observed in some horses galloping the various positions of their limbs - what was the position of the fore legs when the hind legs were in such a position, &c - it is astonishing how truly you get at their motions by thus scrutinizing; I made some sketches, after I arrived home, and they seemed to spring and had all the variety I could possibly wish - and such a look of Nature and activity!’

Thirst after grandeur

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1842
William Macready,
actor

‘Went in a gig to Brighton; the morning made the drive over the downs, through Seaford and Newhaven, very pleasant. Where is beauty wanting in this world, if we do but choose to see it? Waited an hour and a quarter for the railway train at Brighton, reading Philip Van Artevelde, the first part of which I finished before I reached London. Went over to the Bank and received my dividends, from which the Income Tax was deducted. Bear on, ye free people, enslaved to the worst cant that ever stultified mankind.’

Acted Macbeth very unequally

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1860
Lester Frank Ward,
botanist and sociologist

‘I could not write last night because Baxter wished to write a letter. I bound the sheaves all day yesterday, and only got my supper very late, and it made me very tired. That was Tuesday night, and I went to the post office to look for the promised letter from the girl, but did not find it, so I came to the conclusion that I never wished to see her again. My heart is light. I was almost sick cutting the corn all morning.

My girl I am going to abandon you eternally, you whom I have loved so deeply! It will kill me, but let me perish.’

Young Ward’s passion

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1882
Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff,
politician

‘Just as the fireworks began at Vellore a telegram, announcing that the bombardment of Alexandria had commenced, was placed in my hands.’

Good-natured books

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1886
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky,
composer

‘It is said that to abuse oneself with alcoholic drink is harmful. I readily agree with that. But nevertheless, I, a sick person, full of neuroses, absolutely cannot do without the poison against which Mr Miklukho-Maklai [a Russian anthropologist] protests. A person with such a strange name is extremely happy that he does not know the delights of vodka and other alcoholic drinks. But how unjust it is to judge others by yourself and to prohibit to others that which you yourself do nor like. Now I, for example. am drunk every night, and cannot do without it. What should I do then.’

Tchaikovsky’s poison

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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.