And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

5 July

Pierre de l’Estoile,

‘Thursday, July 5, La Chapelle-Marteau, Prévost des Marchands, assembled the city [officials], read to them letters which the Duke of Mayenne had written to the Parisians, in which he exhorted them to hold fast and to cheer up, promising aid at the end of the month at the latest, and if he should fail, he gave them his wife and children to do with what they would. These beautiful words served the people for bread . . . although Boucher . . . and others have assured them of deliverance in two weeks, they were content to settle for a month, so anxious are they to gain that wonderful paradise which the preachers assure them will be gained by dying of hunger.’

The Pepys of Paris?


Thomas Clarkson,
anti-slavery campaigner

‘rode to Mr Bonvilles in Company with John Lury & Robert Lawson - The Downs were beautiful & .... ... went on board the Prince. The People were then busy - The Mate conducted us into their Cabin and invited us to dine: having dined we declined it - but drank some Grogg - The People on board were poor, palefaced, meagre looking Wretches - we were told that the Ship was not half manned - We left her, and went on board the Africa - The Crew of this Vessel, which was fully manned, consisted of as fine Seamen, as could possibly be collected - We drank some Grogg on board this Vessel -. Mr Sheriff, a very humane, good sort of man, was one of the Mates of the Ship, but, though he had been to Sea all his Life, had never yet been a voyage to the Coast - This Mr Sheriff, on account of some misrepresentation of him to Captain Wright was then preparing to leave the Ship. - He sent his Chest to Bristol by the Africa’s Boat, but took his Passage with Us in ours - This man was so beloved by the Seamen on board, that they all came to the Ship’s Side, when he left it, pulled off their Hats, and wished him his Health - We then proceeded again to the Prince, where we drank Tea, after which, we sailed with a fine Wind into the River - I had some Conversation with Mr Sheriff - He informed me that the Men on board the Africa had signed their Articles, but that they had never seen what they signed - He says that he himself also had signed without seeing them, though he did not like it, but as an Officer, did not object, thinking it might be a bad Example in him to set.’

Campaigning against slavery


George Templeton Strong,

‘Have been at home all day writing. Tonight went on the roof awhile. It’s a beautiful sight the city presents. In every direction one incessant sparkle of fire balls, rockets, roman candles, and stars of all colors shooting thick into the air and disappearing for miles around, with now and then a glare of coloured light coming out in some neighbourhood where fireworks on a large scale are going off. A foreigner would put it in his book of travels as one of the marvels of New York, and compare it to a swarm of tropical fireflies gleaming in and out through a Brazilian forest.’

Wall Street palpitating


Anna Klumpke,

‘I worked on the head today. After the sitting Rosa Bonheur looked at the canvas and said: ‘Let the paint dry. When I’ve got an important piece at this stage, sometimes I just let it sit for a whole year long.’

‘In that case, dear great artist, I’ve got time for a trip back to Boston.’

‘Ah! that’s not what I meant,’ she said. ‘While the head is drying, you can paint the hands, the dress, and any background details you want.’ ’

Let the paint dry


Victor Trump,

‘Hurras. Won match. Glorious. All drunk . . . Left for Birmingham. Arrived 12pm.’

Ran about all day


Iris Origo,

‘Yesterday, driving through Scandicci (where there is a large home for permanently disabled soldiers) I met, in his wheelchair, one of the most terrible “grands mutiles” of the 1914-18 war that I have ever seen. Both legs gone, blind, and most horribly disfigured - and still alive, after twenty years.

And in 1959?’

A Chill in the Air


Hugh Dalton,

‘In the small hours of this morning, both of us having returned and done some more work, Gladwyn suggests that I might explore with Eden the possibility of Leeper returning to the Foreign Office and Loxley taking his place at C.H.Q., the whole show being then coordinated under one head, as I had so often told him I wanted. I said this would be rather difficult to handle but I would see how things went. It would be an admirable solution, for almost every reason. . .

To C.H.Q. in time for lunch. I make a row about the Italian Prisoners of War in India and how they are to be approached. I say that I will exercise my own judgment on these drafts and clean them up. It is silly to say that there should be ‘no propaganda’. The practical question is, is it worth while to try to recruit a Free Italian force? Probably Martelli should be the conducting officer.’

Uproar in Parliament


Charles Graves,

‘Went on Home Guard parade, where we were photographed, and then took part in a new scheme for defending Regent’s Park from parachutists. Was informed that I am now second-in-command of the new headquarters platoon, and that we will have flame-throwers, Molotovs, hand-grenades, tommy-guns, anti-tank rifles and sticky bombs. In fact, we have them already. The men were delighted at the new order whereby they can now take their rifles home with them. This is to save time in the event of being called out for an invasion.’

A hell of a night


Jimmy Boyle,
prisoner and sculptor

‘There is no doubt about it, these bastards are trying to destroy me mentally. Blows come in psychological form, ripping through my defences, tearing me apart internally. In the face of this new, but very effective game of destruction I cry like a child. Shattered! No injuries are apparent. What is going on, why?

Retaliation is called for. This violent typewriter shouts bloody anger. Punching holes in the fucking enemy with each tap of the key. Fingers filled with fire and vengeance as they press each lettered key - hatehatehatehatehate. Fuckers causing mental anguish. I HATE YOU.

They would like to see it. Oh God, they would like to see it. If I were to strike out and hit one of them. ‘See!’ they would shout. ‘Look, the bastard is an animal.’ All would turn to me and point. ‘Animal, Animal,’ they would cry.

What the fucking hell am I doing sitting suppressing all this natural anger and keeping it under the surface? Does this make me any more civilised? I’m supposed to sit here like some vegetable with a mandarin smile accepting it all.’

This violent typewriter


Dirk Bogarde,

‘It’s 3.35 a.m. and I can sleep no longer. They say that as one grows older one needs less sleep. Perhaps it’s true?

I’m writing this at the oval table in the bow window of my opulent suite in Rusacks Hotel overlooking the 18th hole of the oldest golf course in the world. It is already quite light. I had forgotten how short the nights are here.

I’ve got two fat armchairs, settee, coffee table with a wobbly leg, a vitrine full of tarnished silver cups for long-forgotten matches played on that course below, a vase of dried leaves and grasses on the mantelpiece, the colour of mashed turnips, a large, dark print of anemones in a bowl, parchment lampshades hanging high on the ceiling.

There is a thick sea-mist and I cannot see the waves, only hear them sighing lazily along the beach, and only then when I open the windows. Close them because it is bitterly cold.

Last night was fun. Graduation Dinner with tables at herring-bone angles, a piper to play us in. Me at top table with silver candelabra, apricot roses, crystal and silver. Very elegant, rich apparently, established. Scowling scholastic faces in heavy gilt frames on the panelled walls, stained glass, speeches, a loving cup passed from one to another. Altogether moving, ancient and perfect. Kindness has overwhelmed me all day. 

Later the Graduation Ball, in a giant chiffon-draped marquee on the lawns. A Tissot painting. Girls in long dresses and tartan sashes, some of the men in the kilt, the rest in tails with white buttonholes. Everyone young and gay, and alive, and I an unbelieving part of it all.

Walked home to Rusacks with Rosalind through a silent St Andrew’s. I suppose, after so many centuries, the town takes all this in its stride? I can’t, quite, yet.

This morning - or was it yesterday morning? - a television man said: ‘Doctor van den Bogarde, would you move a wee bittie to your right... you’re too far apart for the camera.’

I turned in surprise to see which of my relatives it could have been.

I am a mutt. I’ll get used to it.

Perhaps back to bed: it’s so damned cold my fingers are white.

Across the brilliant green of the 18th sacred hole, coming wanly through the mist, a young couple, she in a long dress trailing a negligent scarf, he in crumpled tails. They are wandering slowly; her head on his shoulder, through the meandering spume and fine rain, arms around each other.

In no hurry. Life before them. Or is it only breakfast? Which they are serving at four o’clock.

No matter: a new day has begun and it is as beautiful a way to see it start as any I can imagine.

A billow of mist rolls in from the ocean, drowning the ancient Club House, swirling across the pampered green below, dimming the light about me.

The tarnished cups in the vitrine look like lead; the chairs, the settee, the wobbly-legged coffee table become dark looming shapes, like fat scattered cushions; and the dried grasses on the mantelpiece are ghostly, still, spiky as sticks of incense; the lamps above me hang in shadow, shrouded in the gloom.

It’s very cold; back, I think, now to bed. The maid is bringing tea at eight o’clock.’

Forwood valiant and brave


Christopher McCandless,

‘Disaster . . . Rained in. River look impossible. Lonely, scared.’

Beautiful blueberries


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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.