And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

17 July

1620
Jens Munk,
explorer

‘On the 17th of July, towards evening, I met much ice, and I stood off and on in front of the ice; but, in the course of the night, the weather being calm and misty, we stuck firm on the ice. I then let go the boat of Enhiörningen, which I had taken in tow for the purpose of having it for use if I should come near to land anywhere.’

Nobody to dig the graves

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1732
Carl Linnaeus,
scientist

‘In the morning we arrived at the abode of Mr. Kock, the under bailiff, where I could not but admire the fairness of the bodies of these dark-faced people, which rivalled that of any lady whatever.

Here I saw some Leming Rats, called in Lapland Lummick. The body of these animals is grey; face and shoulders black; the loins blackish; tail, as well as ears, very short. They feed on grass and reindeer-moss (Lichen rangiferinus), and are not eatable. They live, for the most part, in the alps; but in some years thousands of them come down into the woodland countries, passing right over lakes, bogs, and marshes, by which great numbers perish. They are by no means timid, but look out, from their holes, at passengers, like a dog. They bring forth five or six at a birth. Their burrows are about half a quarter (of an ell ?) deep.

Here I found the little Gentian, or Centaury, with a hyacinthine flower in five notched segments (Gentiana nivalis).’

Father of modern taxonomy

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1858
John Quincy Adams,
politician

‘Cabinet meeting at the President’s - the discussion continued upon the answer to be given to Onis, and the restoration of Florida to Spain. The weakness and palsy of my right hand make it impossible for me to report this discussion, in which I continue to oppose the unanimous opinions of the President, the Secretary of the Treasury Crawford, the Secretary of War Calhoun, and the Attorney-General Wirt. I have thought that the whole conduct of General Jackson was justifiable under his orders, although he certainly had none to take any Spanish fort. My principle is that everything he did was defensive; that as such it was neither war against Spain nor violation of the Constitution.’

Election of a president

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1858
William Sydney Clements,
landowner

‘Evicted Widow McRann of Eskerkilen and obtained possession from the sheriff.’

Splinters fell on me

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1865
Gideon Welles,
politician

‘Last Tuesday, when on board the Pawnee with the President and Cabinet, Stanton took me aside and desired to know if the Navy could not spare a gunboat to convey some prisoners to Tortugas. I told him a vessel could be detailed for that purpose if necessary, but I inquired why he did not send them by one of his own transports. He then told me he wanted to send the persons connected with the assassination of President Lincoln to Tortugas, instead of a Northern prison, that he had mentioned the subject to the President, and it was best to get them into a part of the country where old Nelson or any other judge would not try to make difficulty by habeas corpus. Said he would make further inquiries and see me, but wished strict secrecy. On Friday he said he should want a boat and I told him we had none here, but the Florida might be sent to Hampton Roads, and he could send his men and prisoners thither on one of the army boats in the Potomac. I accordingly sent orders for the Florida. Yesterday General Townsend called on me twice on the subject, and informed me in the evening that General Hancock would leave in a boat at midnight to meet the Florida. I suggested that General H. had better wait; we had no information yet that the Florida had arrived, and she would be announced to us by telegraph as soon as she did arrive. To-day I learn the prisoners and a guard went down last night, and I accordingly sent orders by telegraph, by request of Secretary of War, to receive and convey the guard and prisoners to Tortugas.’

Neptune’s Civil War

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1874
James Calhoun,
soldier

‘The command moved at 5 o’clock. Two more rattlesnakes added to the family. Saw an Indian trail.

In full view of the Black Hills.

Two extensive fires from the direction of the Black Hills - at midnight the very heavens seemed on fire. Marched 18 miles. Arrived at Camp No. 16. No wood, very little water.’

Calhoun in the Black Hills

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1883
Francis Turner Palgrave,
civil servant and poet

‘We took the children to ‘The Merchant of Venice’ for the second time. Irving’s Shylock seemed to me a fine and true rendering of Shakespeare’s intention - viz. the mediaeval Jew a little raised in dignity and humanity. The Terry Portia was generally admirable. This play gains, certainly, immensely by representation . . , the sort of tradition which gives Shylock the protagonist, if not the hero part, is amply justified. . . I certainly think that those who cannot see that Irving gave a very powerful, and Miss Terry a very beautiful, interpretation, and that the piece as a whole was a thoroughly ‘adequate’ representation of what Shakespeare meant, must never expect to be satisfied by human art.’

Professor of poetry

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1892
Frank Wedekind,
writer

17 July 1892

‘I get up at nine o’clock and have just got dressed when there’s a knock. I draw the curtains in front of the alcove and ask Herr Weintraub to come in. He asks for 45 francs for copying the manuscript and spends an hour telling me how badly off he is. We read Hebrew together, and I serve him a schnaps. After he’s gone, I get back into bed with Rachel. We get up about four and go to lunch. She would simply love to go bathing with me in Chernetre, but I’m too lazy. We part after coffee.’

Wedekind’s erotic life

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1915
Michael Macdonagh,
journalist

‘For the first time since the outbreak of the War the streets of London were brightened to-day with colour and beauty. It was a dramatic and very moving procession of women through the West End offering Lloyd George, who has been appointed to the specially created office of Minister of Munitions in the National Government, the help of women in the making of war materials and other forms of national work. The organisers were Mrs Pankhurst and the other ladies who were prominent in the late Suffragette agitation - that militant movement for the franchise in which women displayed such amazing audacity, resourcefulness and exuberance.’

The drama of London in WWI

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1944
Alexander Cadogan,
civil servant

‘Not much doing in the morning. 4.45 talk with A. and others about Turkey. In view of Soviet (and U.S.) attitude, I think we must press them to declare war. But there are many considerations against. 5.30 Cabinet, which is becoming more and more rambling, disorderly and voluble. News not bad, but not v. good. What are we doing in Normandy - with 1,229,000 men and a mass of material (255,000 vehicles! Over a million tons of stores!) Maybe we have plan. There is no inkling of it. Cabinet agreed we must go for the Turks coming into war. I slipped away at 8.10! Cabinet having several other items to take. P.M. is evidently ageing, and the rambling talk is frightful. Whatever little the Cabinet settled would have been settled in 7 mins. under Neville Chamberlain.’

Went to see P.M. (in bed)

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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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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.