And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

25 June

1834
Alexander Hamilton Stephens,
lawyer and politician

‘Went to a party. Witnessed the new dance [the waltz] which disgusted me very much. Oh, the follies of man!’

Deprived of my liberty

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1840
Letitia Hargrave,
wife of colonist

‘In bed all day yesterday and great part of today. Ship pitching so that we could not dress. The most provoking part is that we have been beating about waiting till the Prince of Wales came out of Stornaway. Mr Hargrave and the Captain went on board of her lest any letters might have been forwarded there from Stromness, but only got a parcel of shortbread from Captain Royal for the ladies here. Nice food for 4 sea sick women. Never knew what sailing was before.’

York Factory lady

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1869
William Henry Jackson,
photographer

‘Silvered paper in the morning and attended to printing all day. Not a good day for outside work so we did not make any negatives. Got along very well with printing & even after toning our pictures looked first-rate - but the fixing bathfixed them & we were very much disappointed, some of them turning out poorly. Printed up about 4 or 5 dozen. Shall probably get quite an order from McLelland for them. After supper sat in Sumner’s store listening to tough yarns from John & his brother of fighting scrapes &c. After taking a look in the Gold Room we retired early.’

Set up the box

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1884
Marie Bashkirtseff,
writer and artist

‘I have just been reading my journal for the years 1875, 1876, and 1877. I find it full of vague aspirations toward some unknown goal. My evenings were spent in wild and despairing attempts to find some outlet for my powers. Should I go to Italy? Remain in Paris? Marry? Paint? What should I strive to become? If I went to Italy, I should no longer be in Paris, and my desire was to be everywhere at once. What a waste of energy was there?

If I had been born a man, I would have conquered Europe. As I was born a woman, I exhausted my energy in tirades against fate, and in eccentricities. There are moments when one believes one’s-self capable of all things. ‘If I only had the time,’ I wrote, ‘I would be a sculptor, a writer, a musician!’

I am consumed by an inward fire, but death is the inevitable end of all things, whether I indulge in these vain longings or not. But if I am nothing, why these dreams of fame, since the time I was first able to think? Why these wild longings after a greatness that presented itself then to my imagination under the form of riches and honors? Why, since I was first able to think, since the time when I was four years old, have I had longings, vague but intense, for glory, for grandeur, for splendor?’

Bashkirtseff’s inward fire

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1960
Georges Simenon,
writer

‘Four days ago - on the 21st - I finished a novel, number hundred-eighty-something, that I had wanted to be easy. Now on the first day I started to write, towards the 9th or 10th page, I’d had the sensation that it would be futile to go on to the end, that it would never come to life.

I was alone, as always when I write, in my office with the curtains closed. I walked around the room five or six times, and if it hadn’t had a sort of humanness, I would have torn up those few pages and waited a few days to begin a different novel.

This happens two or three times a year. This particular time, I was moved to tears. Then, without too much confidence, I returned to my machine. I think it may be the best of the Maigrets. I’ll know when I start editing. Since the Cannes Festival, I’ve wanted to write a novel filled with sun and tenderness. I had one in my head, for which the characters, the setting, were ready. Of that, I’ve only written three pages. It wasn’t a Maigret. The main characters were in their 30s. I realized later that in Maigret in Society, which in a sense replaced the abandoned novel, I expressed the same tenderness. . . but with characters who were all between 65 and 85.’

A peasant’s mind

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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, 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.