And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

12 June

John Evelyn,

‘I went to advise and give directions about the building of two streets in Berkeley Garden, reserving the house and as much of the garden as the breadth of the house. In the meantime, I could not but deplore that sweet place (by far the most noble gardens, courts, and accommodations, stately porticos, etc., anywhere about the town) should be so much straitened and turned into tenements. But that magnificent pile and gardens contiguous to it, built by the late Lord Chancellor Clarendon, being all demolished, and designed for piazzas and buildings, was some excuse for my Lady Berkeley’s resolution of letting out her ground also for so excessive a price as was offered, advancing near £1,000 per annum in mere ground rents; to such a mad intemperance was the age come of building about a city, by far too disproportionate already to the nation: I having in my time seen it almost as large again as it was within my memory.’

A most excellent person


John Baker,

‘Going through streets leads out of St James’s Market into Haymarket, saw some ham at window in Royal Larder - went in and had some and some porter. NB: I believe this the same person kept house of that name 3 or 4 years ago in Jermyn Street, où many people caught gaming and seemed as if ham (for seemed to have nothing else) only a pretence.’

Ham at window


William Bentley,

‘Saw on the neck for the first time Rock Splitting at the great Rocks near the Causeway, neck side. First, an entrance was made by a long handled pick much like that used upon mill stones, squared to a point. Then the holes were made by a flat chisel tapering to a point. Then the wedges, four inches long, were put in between pieces of iron hoop & drove home bv a large iron maul. At both splittings the wedges were driven only twice & caused a fracture of more than two feet square in the hard black rock of the neck. The person at work said the Danvers rocks were not so hard, & did not make that ringing under the chisel which he called like pot metal. In few seasons have we heard more hitter complaints against cold weather than since June has come in, tho the winter & the whole season, if I may judge from the woodpile, has been as moderate as 1 have ever known. We shall soon hear complaints of heat.’

Society in Salem


Thomas Robert Malthus,

‘Feats of swimming from the bridges of the Schelde and the Leys, numerous barges laden with Coals chiefly from Charleroix.

In the afternoon to Brussels by the Diligence - premiere caisse. Pavé the first half of the way between two rows of beeches. Country flat but not unpleasing from the number of trees - chiefly different kinds of poplar, and beech, - no large timber. Much rye in full ear, and good crops, some barley turning yellow, - but little wheat - just coming into ear. good crops flax. From Alost the crops of wheat and rye forwarder, and the finest and fullest I ever saw. - the first half of the way the houses the neatest, - last half thatched cottages, and a waving country much like England. Alost and Assche very white and cheerful. Blue frocks, women without shoes. Hotel Belle Vue. Place Royale. Park - splendid.’

The cost of men and food


Victor Trump,

‘Test match . . . raining hard . . . Mac[Laren] won toss, batted. Two for none . . . had four chances off me . . . wrote letters.’

Ran about all day


Edward Stanley,

‘Sir John Pilter came to see me. He is the head of the British Colony here. He is very disturbed on the subject of the permits for English people. He is just one of those men who are most tiresome to deal with although there is something to be said on his side. He claims all the rights of a British Citizen and yet when it comes to anything that he does not like he wants to be treated as a Frenchman. They all seem to think that a war is not on and as far as going backwards and forwards into the Army Zone is concerned they ought to be allowed to go as they like. At the same time there are grievances which I hope to get right.

Usual meeting of Missions at 12 o’c.

Left in the afternoon at 2.45 for G.H.Q. with Oliver. Took us just 5 hours, good going considering that we had 3 punctures on the way. Nobody staying at G.H.Q. Winston and Marlborough having been got rid of with difficulty in the morning. Winston cannot have much to do in his office as he has now been away for 10 days and as far as I can see joyriding. He asked for a House to be taken for him in the Army Zone. When this was done he was very angry about it because naturally he has been told he must pay for it himself. He has no official standing out here whatsoever.

Bacon dined in the evening. He is now the American Officer on Haig’s staff, a most charming fellow who was Ambassador here about 5 years ago and very popular. Haig had been to see an American Brigade and told me they were some of the most splendid men he had ever seen and very well drilled. They were National Guard Troops and therefore correspond to our old Militia. They find the Americans pick up the work very quick and are able to go into the line much sooner than was anticipated which is a good thing.

Heard how poor Lumsden, V.C. had been killed. It appears it was entirely his own fault. He was warned that there was a sniper about yet would not go down the communication trench and was shot dead. He is a great loss although like so many other gallant fellows they lose half their value when they get a Brigade and therefore get out of contact with the actual fighting line.’

An ambassador’s war diary


George Orwell,

‘The only time when one hears people singing in the BBC is in the early morning, between 6 and 8. That is the time when the charwomen are at work. A huge army of them arrives all at the same time. They sit in the reception hall waiting for their brooms to be issued and making as much noise as a parrot house, and then they have wonderful choruses, all singing together as they sweep the passages. The place has a quite different atmosphere at this time from what it has later in the day.’

When DID Orwell start a diary?


Kenneth Williams,
actor and writer

‘It seems almost incredible to me now, that I have come through 6 weeks of this kind of purgatory. I am genuinely perplexed as to how I have come through it. A team of people for whom I have practically no affection whatsoever. Plays so wretched that I blush to think I’ve helped to propagate them: and a kind of acting which is so dirty that I mentally vomit. This lesson has been learned. Proximity with such muck is dangerous. It is also futile artistically. One achieves nothing. One is in danger of losing everything. How right everyone was in London! What a fool I was to venture near such crap!’

Carry on carping


Ferdinand Marcos,

‘Imelda and I have been reminiscing in bed - the long tortuous road from Congress to the presidency, the sacrifices, her tears, pain and hard work that went into our struggle for power.

She put purpose into my life - the life of a spoiled bachelor congressman who was also a successful trial lawyer and a hero of the last war who tended to be too carefree and frivolous.

In 11 years I jumped from congressman to President.’

Purpose into my life


Christopher McCandless,

‘Remove half rib-cage and steaks. Can only work nights. Keep smokers going.’

Beautiful blueberries


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And so made significant . . .
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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, several times a week. Now over ten years old, The Diary Review is the secondary source for the extracts in this online anthology.