And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

12 July

Richard Newdigate,

‘Very hot. Rose pretty early. Agreed with Captain Radzee for his Yacht and with Thos. Harly and Wm. Cook for their Hoy (which is called the Success of Cowes) to carry our horses and Coach. Returned to Dinner and spent the rest of the day with our Company.’

But I spied crabs


Nicholas Cresswell,
tradesman and farmer

‘I think I have taken my farewell of New York, tho’ I promised to pay one visit more, but never intend to perform. Cannot bear the abominable hypocrite. I wish to be at Sea but hear nothing of our sailing this week. I wish to be at home and yet dread the thought of returning to my native Country a Beggar. The word sounds disagreeable in my ears, but yet it is more pleasing and creditable than the epithet of Rascal and Villain, even if a large and opulent fortune was annexed to them, though one of the latter sort is in general better received, than an indigent honest man. I am poor as Job, but not quite so patient. Will hope for better days. If I am at present plagued with poverty, my conscience does not accuse me of any extravagance or neglect of sufficient magnitude to bring me into such indigent circumstances. However, I have credit, Health, Friends and good Spirits, which is some consolation in the midst of all my distresses. Better days may come.’

Whores and rogues


Anne Lister,
landowner and traveller

‘Could not sleep last night. Dozing, hot & disturbed . . . a violent longing for a female companion came over me. Never remember feeling it so painfully before . . . It was absolute pain to me.’

A violent longing


Letitia Hargrave,
wife of colonist

‘All the ducks and geese are allowed to walk about deck on Sunday. Miserable objects, their bills white and whole appearance wasted. When they got out they picked their feathers and ducked down on the deck thinking themselves in the water. Mr Bolton likened the procession to Bells Sunday School - I shall note down a week’s bill of fare as we have a diet for every day. Breakfast ham and egg potatoes, tea and coffee biscuit and treacle which we always have morning and evening. Dinner. Fowl soup boiled hens, roast ducks, salt pork, plum pudding, always mashed potatoes, cheese wine almonds raisins and figs. Crossing the American line.’

York Factory lady


Henry D. Thoreau,
philosopher and scientist

‘To Equisetum hyemale.

Those little minnows, a third or half inch long or more, which I catch when bathing, hovering over open sandy spaces, as here at Clamshell, appear to be little shiners. When left dry on my hand, they can toss themselves three or four inches with a spring of their tails, and so often get into the water again. Small as they are, it is rather difficult to catch them, they dodge your hands so fast.

I drink at every cooler spring in my walk these afternoons and love to eye the bottom there, with its pebbly caddis-cases, or its white worms, or perchance a luxurious frog cooling himself next my nose. Sometimes the farmer, foreseeing haying, has been prudent enough to sink a tub in one, which secures a clear deep space. It would be worth the while, methinks, to make a map of the town with all the good springs on it, indicating whether they were cool, perennial, copious, pleasantly located, etc. The farmer is wont to celebrate the virtues of some one on his own farm above all others. Some cool rills in the meadows should be remembered also, for some such in deep, cold, grassy meadows are as cold as springs. I have sometimes drank warm or foul water, not knowing such cold streams were at hand. By many a spring I know where to look for the dipper or glass which some mower has left. When a spring has been allowed to fill up, to be muddied by cattle, or, being exposed to the sun by cutting down the trees and bushes, to dry up, it affects me sadly, like an institution going to decay. Sometimes I see, on one side the tub, - the tub overhung with various wild plants and flowers, its edge almost completely concealed even from the searching eye, - the white sand freshly cast up where the spring is bubbling in. Often I sit patiently by the spring I have cleaned out and deepened with my hands, and see the foul water rapidly dissipated like a curling vapor and giving place to the cool and clear. Sometimes I can look a yard or more into a crevice under a rock, toward the sources of a spring in a hillside, and see it come cool and copious with incessant murmuring down to the light. There are few more refreshing sights in hot weather.

I find many strawberries deep in the grass of the meadow near this Hosmer Spring; then proceed on my way with reddened and fragrant fingers, till it gets washed off at new springs. It is always pleasant to go over the bare brow of Lupine Hill and see the river and meadows thence. It is exceedingly sultry this afternoon, and few men are abroad. The cow’s stand up to their bellies in the river, lashing their sides with their tails from time to time.

A strong and wholesome fragrance now from the vegetation as I go by overgrown paths through the swamp west of Nut Meadow. Equisetum hyemale has been out a good while; is mostly effete, but some open yet. Some have several flower-spikes on the sides near the top, but most one at top, of the last year’s plant. This year’s shoots a foot high, more or less. All the Pyrola secunda I can find is out of bloom. The Chimaphila umbellata flower-buds make a very pretty umbel, of half a dozen small purple balls surmounted by a green calyx. They contrast prettily with the glossy green leaves.

A song sparrow’s nest in a small clump of alder, two feet from ground! Three or four eggs.

I hear the occasional link note from the earliest bobolinks of the season, - a day or two.’

Cows in the river


Frances Dallam Peter,

‘John Morgan with a large body of cavalry said to be at Glasgow & marching on Lex[ington] expected tonight. The whole town is in a stir in consequence. Gen Boyle sent a dispatch that men should be sent out to meet Morgan. The Home Guards, Provost Guard & volunteers from the hospital with a battery that arrived the other day went out on duty. A company came to night from Cynthiana. A dispatch was sent this evening to Cincinatti for troops. For several days the atmosphere has presented a very hazy, smoky appearance & at times a slight smell as of burning was perceptible. We heard this evening that Lebanon had been burnt by Morgan.’

A stir in consequence


Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff,

‘While the municipal address was being read to me this morning at Chittore, a huge elephant, belonging to the Zemindar of Kalastri, a great temporal chief, charged a smaller elephant belonging to the Mohunt or High Priest of Tripaty, thus dis-establishing the church much more rapidly, alas! than we did in Ireland. The stampede of the crowd was a sight to behold. The natives took to the trees like squirrels.’

Good-natured books


Alice James,
sister to writer

‘It’s amusing to see how, even upon my microscopic field, minute events are perpetually taking place illustrative of the broadest facts of human nature. Yesterday Nurse and I had a good laugh, but I must allow that decidedly she ‘had’ me. I was thinking of something that interested me very much, and my mind was suddenly flooded by one of those luminous waves that swept out of consciousness all but the living sense and overpower one with joy in the rich, throbbing complexity of life, when suddenly I looked up at Nurse, who was dressing me, and saw her primitive, rudimentary expression (so common here), as of no inherited quarrel with her destiny of putting petticoats over my head; the poverty and deadness of it contrasted to the tide of speculation that was coursing thro’ my brain made me exclaim, ‘Oh! Nurse, don’t you wish you were inside of me?’ Her look of dismay, and vehement disclaimer - ‘Inside of you, Miss, when you have just had a sick head-ache for five days!’ - gave a greater blow to my vanity than that much-battered article has ever received. The headache had gone off in the night and I had clean forgotten it when the little wretch confronted me with it, at this sublime moment, when I was feeling within me the potency of Bismarck, and left me powerless before the immutable law that, however great we may seem to our own consciousness, no human being would exchange his for ours, and before the fact that my glorious role was to stand for sick-headache to mankind! What a grotesque being I am, to be sure, lying in this room, with the resistance of a thistle-down, having illusory moments of throbbing with the pulse of the race, the mystery to be solved at the next breath, and the fountain of all happiness within me - the sense of vitality, in short, simply proportionate to the excess of weakness. To sit by and watch these absurdities is amusing in its way, and reminds me of how I used to listen to my ‘company manners’ in the days when I had ‘em, and how ridiculous they sounded.

Ah! Those strange people that have the courage to be unhappy! Are they unhappy, by the way?’

Geyser of emotions


Louis Agassiz Fuertes,
ornithologist and artist

‘Fisher and I (many others) went ashore on the mainland at Port Clarence Bay, Alaska, and went up the stream where the ship was watering. First bird seen was a pipit (A. Pensilv. ) and soon after saw the yellow wagtail which we had found in Siberia. It turned out to be common, several specimens were obtained. Alice’s thrush was common, + obtained for the first time on the trip. Cole got a Mealy? red poll, and I found a nest with 5 eggs - both redpolls seemed common enough. About the finest sensation we had was a successful hunt after golden plover. I got 3 + F. two, all in more or less perfect summer plumage. The birds have the most beautiful calls + song. They sit at quite a distance from each other in the wet mossy hill meadows and call and answer back + forth. The calls can all be imitated by a full clear whistle, so that the birds answer quite eagerly - whip whee + a shorter note of the same notes, lower, are the common calls, but the song is a rich full warble, of a cadence - repeated - somewhat suggesting a blue-bird song done in R.B. Grosbeak quality.

Dr. F. + I, while separated by quite a distance, saw at the same time a long tailed Jaeger, sitting on a moss tuft way off on a distant hill; and unbeknownst to it and to us, he became the apex of a triangle , where F. + I were doomed to meet. Our sneak became interesting as we neared each other, + became aware of our position. The bird however, relieved us of our responsibility, + let us both out in a sportsmanlike manner by catching sight of me first, and rising with a scream which I took for alarm at first, but when he repeated it came squealing straight at me, I saw that it was defiance, and there was nothing to do but wait for him to get the right distance and shoot in self-defence. When I had come up to the beautiful bird, + was kneeling over it, Fisher’s voice came up the rise -- “let me take the other,” + I looked up to see the mate rising as he approach, at rt [angles] to the course of the first one. Nearer he came, + I itched as he passed over me at nearly 40 ft. I could see him eye me, + his squealing cries were so near that their quality seemed surprising -- very like big hawk’s cries. His long tail feathers oscillated + spread slightly at the tips with each wing stroke. He went right by me, straight on towards Dr. F. + when he got just right -- bang -- and with wings set in a V he came smoothly down into the grass, and we sat together in the mossy hillside and held the first long-tailed jaegers that either of us had ever seen to shoot at. The feet were black, like black rubber, and the rest of the legs light bird blue and the bill black with a “milky flesh color” interior.’

Puffins, pipits and plovers


Hermione Llewellyn,
secretary and noblewoman

‘While we were talking several people joined us and soon an argument began as to whether we can hold the Germans in Egypt and what will happen if we don’t. There was talk of evacuation which I still find rather a sore subject. ‘Lord Byron said women and cows should never run,’ I said. A little man who was standing nearby turned round - he had a red, rather belligerent face: ‘And what use would you be?’ he asked. Robin came to my rescue: She would fight with the rest of us,’ he said. ‘Can you shoot? the stranger asked me. I shook my head - I was beginning to feel foolish. Red Face glared: ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I like that bit about Lord Byron. I’ll teach you to shoot. Be at the police station on the Jaffa Road at six tomorrow.’ He stumped off before I could ask his name.’

Reinforcements received


Arthur C. Clarke,

‘Now have everything - except the plot.’

Dreamed I was a robot


Sasha Swire,

‘H comes back from a leaving party at No. 10. He is sad and silent, and does not want to talk. He says it feels like a bereavement. Only hardcore Cameroons were there. Speeches all round, including one from Samantha. Dave says to H that he told Theresa she should keep people like Hugo and Philip Dunne because they are solid and reliable. He also tells her not to go near Fox and Davis, that they are trouble and have no following. But I really want Hugo to move on now. It’s unlikely - very unlikely - that H will be offered anything, since T has already said she wants female parity in cabinet, and H won’t move sideways. So, it’s over and out, bar the promised knighthood. There is absolutely no indication where Theresa is going to place anyone. H puts his hand horizontal to his nose and says to George, “The water is here, so how are you going to get out of this one, Houdini?”

Dave says to H, “I have put in a good word with May.”

H replies, “Thanks but I’m thinking of joining you on the back benches.” ’

Blah, blah, blah . . .


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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.