And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

19 June

Luca Landucci,

‘The festaiuoli of San Giovanni (directors of the festivities) published a proclamation that no shops were to be opened from the 20th June till San Giovanni was over, without their permission, on pain of a fine of 25 lire; and those who received permission had to pay, some two grossi and some three or four. This was very hard upon the poor, because the proclamation said that it was not meant for the wool mercers, nor the silk mercers, nor the bankers; therefore it was considered an injustice and a mean and infamous thing to force the artisans to be idle.

At this time there was an epidemic of influenza, with a cough and fever, in Florence and all through Italy. Almost everyone suffered from it; the fever lasted four or five days, and was called in Florence the male del tiro (shooting complaint). The reason of this was that amongst all sorts of celebrations on the day of San Giovanni, the first consisted in jousting in the Piazza, that is to say, a number of men-at-arms, fully armed with lances as if they were on a field of battle, were made to perform feats of arms; then a man walked on a tight-rope; and lastly they hunted a bull. It was extremely hot that day, and then it poured with rain, which soaked everyone who was out of doors. A great number of raised seats had been made, and the whole of Florence was there, and many foreigner besides; and people having got wet when they were so heated is supposed to have caused the influenza.’

Earthquakes in Florence


William Bray,
lawyer and antiquary

‘Jack was taken with the smallpox, and on the 28th the dear soul died. Polly was taken on the 1st of July, I sent for Mr Kerr who gave her Sutton’s powders, and she recovered.’

A good state of health


Nicholas Cresswell,
tradesman and farmer

‘Got under way early this morning. As we sat at dinner, saw two Buffalo Bulls crossing the River. When they were about half way over four of us got into a Canoe and attacked them in the River, the rest went along shore to shoot them, as soon as they came ashore. The River was wide and we had fine diversion fighting them in the water. The man in the head of the canoe seized one of them by the tail and he towed us about the River for half an hour. We shot him eight times, let him get ashore and he ran away. Our comrades ashore very angry with us and they have a great right to be so. Passed the mouth of the Little Miamme. In great fear of the Indians. Saw a Black Wolf pursuing a Faun into the River, the Faun we caught, but the Wolf got away. My company quarrels amongst themselves, but behave well to me. Camped late in the evening.’

Whores and rogues


Hermann Ludwig von Löwenstern,

‘If you compare here to England, everything in Copenhagen seems bad and tasteless and especially desolate and empty. From Bodisco I learned that brave Reimers has died.’

At sea with Von Löwenstern


Rutherford B Hayes,

‘I will put down a few of my present hopes and designs for the sake of keeping them safe. I do not intend to leave here until about a year after I graduate, when I expect to commence the study of law. Before then I wish to become a master of logic and rhetoric and to obtain a good knowledge of history. To accomplish these objects I am willing to study hard, in which case I believe I can make, at least, a tolerable debater. It is another intention of mine, that after I have commenced in life, whatever may be my ability or station, to preserve a reputation for honesty and benevolence; and if ever I am a public man I will never do anything inconsistent with the character of a true friend and good citizen. To become such a man I shall necessarily have to live in accordance with the precepts of the Bible, which I firmly believe, although I have never made them strictly the “rule of my conduct.” Thus ends this long dry chapter on self.’

They cheered lustily


Andrew Peterson,

‘Hoed and planted potatoes on my claim. I had Alexander and Jonas - Peter and John to help me.’

The Swedish emigrant


John Henry Newman,

‘dark - rain - thunder’

The pithy diary of a saint


James Madison DeWolf,

‘41/2 to 4 P.M. 33 miles marched 91/2 miles back from the river on the bluffs 8 miles along river bottom then the balance on Bluffs tlie last mile was dreadful badlands & almost impassable found lots of Agates some pretty’

DeWolf’s last stand


Charles de Foucauld,

‘Wake up in the roadstead of Gibraltar. The packet-boat will lie at anchor all day. I land and visit the town; Mardochée remains on board. A young Jew of eighteen who knows Spanish accompanies me; as for me, I know nothing but Arabic. My excursion has a practical aim. On board, the water we are given is filthy; took a large iron pot and brought it back full of water. I walk about for five hours in Gibraltar, pot in hand; I push on to a Spanish village under a mile from the town. Cross the frontier and note the English and Spanish sentinels mount guard only 60 yards apart, the former as well as the latter badly dressed.’

From playboy to ascetic


Douglas Haig,

‘I saw the CIGS at 10.45 am and then walked to Lord Curzon’s Office (Privy Council) for a meeting of the War Cabinet at 11 am . . .

We discussed the military situation till 1 o’clock when the Prime Minister left to marry his daughter. The members of the War Cabinet asked me numerous questions all tending to show that each of them was more pessimistic than the other! The PM seemed to believe the decisive moment of the war would be 1918. Until then we ought to husband our forces and do little or nothing, except support Italy with guns and gunners (300 batteries were indicated). I strongly asserted that Germany was nearer her end than they seemed to think, that now was the favourable moment, [for pressing her] and that everything possible should be done to take advantage of it by concentrating on the Western Front all available resources. I stated that Germany was within 6 months of the total exhaustion of her available manpower, if the fighting continues at its present intensity. [To do this, more men and guns are necessary.]’

Haig’s ‘unique’ WWI diaries


Paul K. Lyons,



I meet a Kiwi on the coach from the waiting room to the ferry. He’s from Christchurch - we have a couple of lifts together. He’s off to Amsterdam and me to Brussels. Oh dear what a job to remember my French. I am quite weary and despondent. I ask a copper how to get to Rue Charles De Groux and walk the long way round Congress to Rue Belliard. A pharmacie is getting me the Daraprim. My forged letter gets me a current international student card. Mutti, my stepfather’s mother, makes me very welcome. I fall asleep on Mutti’s floor watching the football.’

Around the world in diary days


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Why Ever Did I Want to Write is a patchwork of themed stories about one man’s early life, embracing highs and lows but driven by a desire to make the most of being alive, to experience, to feel, and above all to understand. Reminiscent of Karl Knausgaard’s A Death in the Family and Theodore Zeldin’s An Intimate History of Humanity, this memoir, often based on diaries, sees Lyons reflecting on a repressed childhood, exploring the world through years of travelling, and searching for meaning and excitement in the arts and love affairs – an archetype of the counterculture in the 1970s and 1980s.

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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.

in diary days



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.

SITE DEVISED by Paul K Lyons

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.