And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

3 June

John Quincy Adams,

‘Boston. When I returned to my lodgings at the close of the evening, upon opening a letter from my father, which I had just before taken from the postoffice I found that it contained information that Edmund Randolph, Secretary of State of the United States, had, on the morning of the day when the letter was dated, called on the writer, and told him that the President of the United States had determined to nominate me to go to the Hague as Resident Minister from the United States. This intelligence was very unexpected, and indeed surprising. I had laid down as a principle, that I never would solicit for any public office whatever, and from this determination no necessity has hitherto compelled me to swerve.’

Election of a president


Thomas De Quincey,

‘Rise between 11 and 12 - go to W’s; - read out “Henry the Fourth”; (part 1st) which Mrs. E. pronounces “a very pretty play.” Almost immediately after this is finished . . . dinner is announced; - I go without seeing Mr. W.; walk, by French prison and lane, to windmill on shore; - turn back along shore; cross over to French prison; - go to C’s; - dine there again by myself; - open a volume of the Encyclopaedia; read 2 pages of the life of Frederick the Great of Prussia . . . containing the origin of his acquaintance with Voltaire - his mode of spending the time as described by Voltaire; then read the article “French” (language) in the same volume; - open no other book; - go to W’s; ring and ask if the ladies are really gone, as they talked of doing, to Mossley; - find they are gone in spite of the rain; - walk to Everton; - find postman at door; - decypher a letter; - lend Miss B. 2s 3d to pay the postage of one; - the other (2s 2d) she leaves unpaid, though I offered to lend her the money; - both come from the coast of Africa; - Miss B. seems wild with joy; - has received money I suppose; I drink coffee.’

My imagination flies


John Ruskin,
writer and art critic

‘I walked up this afternoon to Bloney, very happy, and yet full of some sad thought; how perhaps I should not be again among these lovely scenes; as I was now and ever had been, a youth with his parents - it seemed that the sunset of to-day sunk upon me like the departure of youth.

First I had a hot march among the vines, and between their dead stone walls. Once or twice I flagged a little, and began to think it tiresome; then I put my mind into the scene, instead of suffering the body only to make report of it; and looked at it with the possession-taking grasp of the imagination - the true one; it gilded all the dead walls, and I felt a charm in every vine tendril that hung over them. It required an effort to maintain the feeling; it was poetry while it lasted, and I felt that it was only while under it that one could draw, or invent, or give glory to, any part of such a landscape. I repeated, ‘I am in Switzerland’ over and over again, till the name brought back the true group of associations, and I felt I had a soul, like my boy’s soul, once again. I have not insisted enough on this source of all great contemplative art. The whole scene without it was but sticks and stones and steep dusty road.’

John Ruskin’s birthdays


Paul Klee,

‘The main thing now is not to paint precociously but to be, or at least become, an individual. The art of mastering life is the prerequisite for all further forms of expression, whether they are paintings, sculptures, tragedies, or musical compositions.’

Colour possesses me


Florence Farmborough,

‘I was told that in Hut 131 a sick woman needed attention. At length I found her, a young mother, sick with typhoid, and her baby. We Sisters are doing our level best to instil into the village-folk the urgent need to boil all their drinking-water - an idea which seems unable to take root in the peasant mind. The same old argument is raised: his parents never drank boiled water, why should he? But we persist. They listen attentively, but their minds are quite impervious to the meaning of ‘pollution’ and ‘contamination’.

Before retiring for the night, it was whispered around that a great battle was expected within the next twenty-four hours, but we sceptically went off to sleep, having heard it so often before.’

Guilty of murder


Nicholas II,

‘After tea Kerensky suddenly came by car from the city. He stayed with me for a while. He asked me to send to the investigating committee some papers and letters having relations to internal policies. After my walk and until lunch I helped Korovichenko in an analysis of those papers. During the day he was helped by Kobylinsky. We sawed up the tree trunks in the first place we cut. During that time something happened to Alexis’s toy rifle. He was playing with it on the island; the sentry walking in the garden saw him and asked the officer to take it away from him.’

Hope remains above all


A C Benson,
teacher and writer

‘College photograph. I liked my handsome friendly well-mannered young men very much, and felt proud of them. Lunched [. . .] then out with Manning . . . We found a chalk-pit above Harlton [. . .] with a little wood above it, and winding paths and tiny glades - such a little paradise. We wound through it and came out on the wold - the air full of golden sunlight, and a honied breeze, with scents of clover and beans; afar lay Cambridge, very hazy, with smoke going up; down below little quaint house-roofs and orchard-closes, full of buttercup and hemlock. A sweet hour. . .’ [This is one of Benson’s last diary entries, since he died two weeks later.]

A C Benson’s inner life


Leonid Brezhnev,

‘Received Chernenko - signed minutes worked with Galya Doroshina Rest - flew to Zavidovo - 5 boars.’

To every historian’s despair


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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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