And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

25 July

1797
Elizabeth Fremantle,
wife of sailor

‘The troops landed at two oclock this morning. There was much firing in the Town, but from the ships it seemed as if the English had made themselves masters of it, Great was our mistake, this proved to be a shocking, unfortunate night Fremantle returned at 4 this morning wounded in the arm, he was shot through the right arm the moment he had landed, came off in the first boat, and stayed on board the Zealous till day light, where he wound was dressed. Thank God as the ball only went through the flesh he will not lose an arm he managed it so well that I was not frightened, but I was not a little distressed and miserably when I heard what it was, and indeed he was in great pain and suffered cruelly all day but it was fortunate that he did get wounded at first, God knows if ever I should have seen again had he stayed on short. It was dreadful, poor Captain Bowen killed on the spot, The Admiral was wounded as he was getting out of the Boat and most unfortunately lost his arm. The fox Cutter was lost and poor old Gibson drowned Captain Thompson is likewise wounded. All the rest remained on shore very few people returned to the ships in the morning. As they threatened to burn the Town they had their own terms and were sent off . . .

This is the most melancholy event, I can’t help thinking of poor Captain Bowens losing his life just at the end of the war in which he had been so fortunate. At the moment he was continually talking of the happy life he should lead when he returned home. [. . .]

Fremantle was in great pain all day but I hope he will soon get well.’

Nelson’s diary, and left hand

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1859
William Daunt,
politician

‘My pugnacious youngster came in to-day with his face streaming blood from a blow of a stone near the eye. . . It was almost impossible to get him to tell who hit him. “It is done now,” said he, “and what does it matter who did it?” He took the matter very philosophically, saying that “in our course through life we must expect to meet accidents.” . . .’

The Irish Difficulty

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1864
Hubert Parry,
composer

‘I wrote out a part of a new air of mine which (I can’t conceive why) everybody here seems to have taken a fancy to.’

Finished my first song

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1889
Ethel Turner,
writer

‘Made the drawing room pretty, wrote Aunt Elgitha; corrected proofs, etc. In afternoon Nina Church came up to see us - she is growing really lovely but she is frightfully conceited and drawls dreadfully. Went to dancing lessons, had 2nd and 3rd figures of the Minuet and the Quadrille, Polka and Lancers. Did Parthenon work till 12 o’clock. Kate left, I am so sorry. I never liked a servant so well.’

Seven Little Australians

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1902
Victor Trump,
sportsman

‘England 262. Jackson 122. Bowlers done badly. Australia 8 for 85. Things gloomy. Darling 37. Refused admission theatre.’

Ran about all day

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1924
Mikhail Bulgakov,
writer

‘What a day! Spent the morning at home writing a satirical piece for Red Pepper. Then the daily process began of dashing from one editor to another in search of money, without seeing any chink of light ahead. Saw the unspeakable Furman from the newspaper Dawn of the East. Two of my pieces were returned. I had great difficulty getting Furman to hand the manuscript back, since I owed them the twenty roubles they’d already paid me. I had to write him a note that I would return the money no later than the 30th. Then I handed in one of these articles to Red Pepper, together with the one I had written earlier that morning. I’m sure they’ll be rejected. And then, in the evening, Sven rejected my article for Splinter. Was at his apartment, and somehow managed to get a promissory note for 20 roubles, for tomorrow. Nightmarish existence.

To cap it all, I rang Lezhnev in the afternoon to learn that there was no point in negotiating with Kagansky concerning the publication of The White Guard as a separate edition, as he hadn’t got any money at the moment. This was a new surprise. I now regret that I didn’t take the thirty chervonets at the time. I’m sure The White Guard won’t now be published.

In short, the Devil only knows what’s going on.

It’s late, about 12; have been with Lyubov Yevgenyevna.’

Manuscripts don’t burn

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1941
Friedrich Kellner,
civil servant

‘The widow Frau Emmelius received news that her son August was killed. He is the first casualty from Laubach on the Eastern Front. Reports came today of other casualties: Philippi, Kammer, and von Eiff.

What I hear is August Emmelius was no Nazi. Naturally the respectable always have to die. The “most valuable” elements of the populace - Haas, Naumann, Haack, and other Party members - are still among the living.’

Nazis are the misfortune

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1948
Jack Kerouac,
writer

‘. . . to the beach. We played in the waves for hours, lay in the sun. We had dinner at my house, and then the summernight fields and softness and great stars bending close-pack’t, and odourous darkness, and flowers and hidden gardens, and the whole universe melting and falling down the skies all crumbled and soft, all blurred and transcendental with milky light, all immortal, all sacrificial and sighing, all too impossible to keep and bear so beautiful and so sad. I wonder why our life must quiver between beauty and guilt, consummation and sadness, desire and regret, immortality and tattered moments unknowable, truth and beautiful meaningful lies, knowledge and the genius of illusion, love and chagrin, “Time” and minutes, what-we-do and what-we-want - or - other poles quivering elsewhere in greater, softer darknesses. Later, at night, wandered in the Bowery enjoying a few beers and thinking love-thoughts, then saw Lucien and Barbara and got out-drunk and staggered home in the morning . . . and Allen was crying because he thought nobody wanted to hear his new “silence and transcendence" visions, although, being silent and transcendent, of course, he could not utter them, and we could not utter our understanding, and the Big Error, or (to me) the Big Truth, hovered near touching us almost with its unknown wings. However there was no reason for me to get so drunk. I think I got drunk for the first time simply because I was happy, no other big reason, and because I was in love, in its living room resting.’

The rush of what is said

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1968
Dang Thuy Tram,
doctor

‘I came to sit by Lam’s bedside today. A mortar had severed the nerves in his spine, the shrapnel killing half of his body. Lam was totally paralyzed. His body was ulcerated from the chest down. He was in excruciating pain. Lam is twenty-four this year, an excellent nurse from Pho Van. Less than a month ago, he was assigned as supplement to the District Civil Medical Department. The enemy came upon Lam while he was on the road during his recent assignment; Lam tried to get into a secret shelter, but the Americans were already upon him when he opened the cover; the small shrapnel painfully destroyed his life. Lam lay there waiting for death. In the North, a severed spinal cord is already a hopeless case, let alone here. Lam knows the severity of his injury and is deep in misery and depression.

This afternoon as I was sitting next to him, Lam handed me a letter from Hanh (Lam’s young wife), then said in a low voice, “Big Sister, you and the other sisters here - you are my family - you have dedicated yourselves to nurturing me. What for? I will die sooner or later; if I live, I will only bring more hardships for you and the family.” A single tear rolled down Lam’s gaunt cheek.

My heart was breaking for him, but I didn’t know what to say. If I were Lam, I certainly would have said the same. But I couldn’t stop encouraging him. . . Oh! War! How I hate it, and I hate the belligerent American devils. Why do they enjoy massacring kind, simple folks like us? Why do they heartlessly kill life-loving young men like Lam, like Ly, like Hung and the thousand others, who are only defending their motherland with so many dreams?’

The crimes of war

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2001
Jeffrey Archer,
politician and writer

‘2.02pm. What is almost impossible to describe in its full horror is the time you spend banged up. So please do not consider this diary to be a running commentary, because I would only ask you to think about the endless hours in between. Heaven knows what that does to lifers who can see no end to their incarceration, and do not have the privilege of being able to occupy their time writing. In my particular case, there is Hope, a word you hear prisoners using all the time. They hope that they’ll win their case, have their sentence cut, be let out on parole, or just be moved to a single cell. For me, as a Category D prisoner, I simply hope to be transferred to Ford Open Prison as soon as possible. But God knows what a lifer hopes for, and I resolve to try and find out during the next few days.’

Happy birthday, Jeffrey

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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.