And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

7 June

Robert Woodford,

‘The small pox are much in London, but the sicknesse at a very Low ebbe blessed be god though they come hether from many p[ar]tes of the Country that are infected.’

I pray increase my estate


Samuel Pepys,
civil servant

‘Thence, it being the hottest day that ever I felt in my life, and it is confessed so by all other people the hottest they ever knew in England in the beginning of June, we to the New Exchange, and there drunk whey, with much entreaty getting it for our money, and [they] would not be entreated to let us have one glasse more. So took water and to Fox-Hall, to the Spring garden [later known as Vauxhall Gardens, opened a few years earlier and would stay open for around 200 years], and there walked an houre or two with great pleasure, saving our minds ill at ease concerning the fleete and my Lord Sandwich, that we have no newes of them, and ill reports run up and down of his being killed, but without ground. Here staid pleasantly walking and spending but 6d. till nine at night, and then by water to White Hall, and there I stopped to hear news of the fleete, but none come, which is strange, and so by water home, where, weary with walking and with the mighty heat of the weather, and for my wife’s not coming home, I staying walking in the garden till twelve at night, when it begun to lighten exceedingly, through the greatness of the heat. Then despairing of her coming home, I to bed.

This day, much against my will, I did in Drury Lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and “Lord have mercy upon us” writ there; which was a sad sight to me, being the first of the kind that, to my remembrance, I ever saw. It put me into an ill conception of myself and my smell, so that I was forced to buy some roll-tobacco to smell to and chaw, which took away the apprehension.’

In celebration of Pepys


Alexander Hamilton Stephens,
lawyer and politician

‘I believe I shall never be worth anything, and the thought is death to my soul. I am too boyish, unmanful, trifling, simple in my manners and address.’

Deprived of my liberty


Lucy Cavendish,

‘Our wedding day. I cannot write about it. I can only look backwards with loving regret, and forward with bright but trembling hope. We were married in Westminster Abbey, by Uncle Billy, and came here [FN: The Duke of Devonshire’s house at Chiswick in which both Fox and Canning died. It is now the property of the Municipality.] about 4 o’clock, into peaceful summer loveliness and the singing of birds.’

Lord and Lady Cavendish


Mark Kellogg,

‘Under March 4:45 A.M. Weather misty, clouds heavy threatening rain. Marched today 32 miles & camped on Powder River. Cavalry Gen Custer, at 3.30. Gen T. and head of column 5 P.M. & the rear of Col. at 8 P.M. Terribly rough country. Gen C- with Col Weirs troops, used as videttes, scouted ahead & succeeded finding a passable trav route over a country would seem impractical, up, up, down, down, zig zag, twisting turning &c Gen C. rode 50 miles, fresh when arrived. Told Terry last eve, would succeed finding trail & water horse in P. River. 3.0 P.M. today, succeeded at 3.30 P.M. Most attractive scenery yet. Spruce & Cedar on Buttes, marched on “hogs back” highest Buttes in country for mile or two, if teams went either side roll down hundreds feet. Only route could be found in this direction. Saw, what seemed like Ancient ruins. Buffalo seen today, none taken, order no firing. This camp excellent, wood, water, grass plenty. Timber all Cottonwood of smallish or medium size. Every one tired out, & stock completely so. Several mules & few horses played dropped out of teams today. Some breakage to wagons slight damages. Remarkable march. We are 26 miles in direct line from camp on. OFallon Creek last night. Have marched thus far 32.3 miles. Its 20 miles from here to mouth P. River. Fish’

Days before Custer’s Last Stand


James Madison DeWolf,

‘5 AM to 8 P.M. 32 miles about go direct across to Powder River from O’Fallon Creek keep up on the divides a bad pass & several deep ravines about 4 miles from Powder river steep banks & liable to wash would be impassable in wet weather. Cloudy & cool all day some fine misty rain not enough to wet the ground found several remnants of Buffalo carcases that Indians had killed game getting scarce no doubt due to the presence of Indians in the vicinity found some wild Heilatrope as found in Oregon some sage brush and some Rolling Prairie & Badlands.’

DeWolf’s last stand


Iris Origo,

‘Still no definite news. But the first outward signs of war reach our valley. In the early morning 35 bombers heading South fly over us, and in the afternoon about 50 military lorries, bound for the aviation camp at Castiglion del Lago, drive up the road from Rome. The peasants look up as they hear the rumble, say resignedly Ci siamo - and get back, while they can, to their hay.

The radio starts atrocity stories about the behaviour of the Allied troops in Belgium, including a detailed story of the “massacre” by French officers of some innocent Italian miners, and the statement that 1500 Belgian refugees have been murdered deliberately by British bombardments on the Belgian frontier. Such stories, however, don’t as yet go down well. Even two boys of 16 and 18, who are staying here, merely shrug and say disgustedly: “Who do they expect to believe it?” ’

A Chill in the Air


Charles Graves,

‘Went to Lord’s, where the Eton Ramblers played the Forty Club. Four ex-Test captains were performing, but the scoring was very low. This is because bowlers get back to form much sooner than batsmen. [. . .] Went on parade and took a tommy-gun course at Wormwood Scrubs. Sergeant Kirk was there and told us to fire a foot below the bull’s-eye. [. . .] I now learn that I am to be battalion bombing instructor unless I take care.’

A hell of a night


Edward Francis Wightman,


Had neither the energy nor the time to write yesterday so I’ll try and give a record of the events in chronological order.

We were at our bombardment position about 5am after passing through the minefields in the Channel, swept and Dan-buoyed by the sweepers. As we approached the French coast numerous air raids were seen and we watched pretty fireworks displays for quite a while. About 5.10am, just five minutes before schedule, we opened fire with 15” on a 6” battery on a high ridge. This battery had six guns and they were in armoured casemates, so it was no walkover. After about one to two hours firing, enemy shells landed uncomfortably close without doing damage. This went on intermittently all day. About 6.30am two enemy destroyers attacked with torpedoes. Five were fired and three came perilously close. No more than 50 yards away the nearest. A pack of E-boats was observed and the 4” and 6” armament were blazing away and were very effective, causing the enemy to retire. They attacked again later on and were again driven off. By this time we had ranged the enemy battery and put four of the six guns out of action The remaining two were quite a nuisance and some of their shells landed no more than 20 yards away.

In the meantime one of the tinfish fired at us, and hit the destroyer Svenna, a Norwegian escort of ours. She sank almost immediately and I don't think any survivors were picked up. Bodies and wreckage, rafts, timber etc floated past and we observed the bow and stern of the wreck showing above water. Must be pretty shallow here. Apparently she broke her back. Poor chaps - leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

Aircraft were now thumping the hell out of German positions ashore and at 6.30am the first wave of troops landed. Later in the day we heard they had succeeded at all points and our Royal Marine Commando battalion had taken a coastal defence battery intact! The day wore on with numerous alarms for aircraft but we saw none. One dropped a stick of bombs between a destroyer and cruiser. JU88 I believe. We carried out several bombardments in the afternoon and evening and eventually completed the obliteration of the last 6" gun of the battery. We then had orders to proceed to Portsmouth to re-ammunition. Fired 220 15” shells and goodness knows how many 6” and 4”. Not one AA gun opened fire! What a difference to 1940.

Just as we were preparing to leave, hundreds and hundreds of gliders came in, in great masses. Each one had a towing plane and they came over for an hour, solid. We estimated over a thousand, so they probably landed at least one complete division. What a sight! Just like a Wellsian dream of the future. I forgot to mention before, that as we went into battle, the captain donned the Maori skirt so how could we come to any harm? Battle ensign was flying from the gaff. Lots of fireworks displays as we left. RAF again giving Germans a bad night.

Time 6.30am: arrived Portsmouth and re-ammunitioned all day. Were we worn out! Sailed again 8.30pm and we still had our deck full of cordite to be stowed. Wonder where we are bound now.

Time 11pm: Too dark now. Write again tomorrow.’

Operation Neptune


William Henry Smith,

‘As we approached the beaches yesterday, all I could think of was one specific line in the speech General Eisenhower wrote us before we left England, “The free men of the world are marching to victory!” I felt reassured as we left in the L.C.I.’s (Landing Craft Infantry) even though I could not hear myself think because everything was exploding around me. I knew that I would fight with all my heart for my country. I would fight with pride. But now, words are jumping out at me. I still can’t describe the horror I saw yesterday as I got out of the L.C.I. and got in the water, some guys were really scared, I could see it in their eyes. Hell, we were all scared. The water was freezing. As I approached the beach, I saw my own friends a few feet away from me, have their arms shot off or even worse die instantly in front of me. Everything has a different meaning once you live through it. Right now a third of my company, a third of us are hiding out in a pit until darkness sets in so we can start looking for the others. I don’t even know where the hell we are!’

Operation Neptune


Edward Abbey,

‘Bude. The novel is shambling along - I’m in a big scene now, the murder of Jonathan’s father, but there are so many distractions and interruptions here that I can’t really get rolling - every time I think it’s about to rain, the sun comes out instead and I surrender to the overwhelming compulsion to go swimming in the surf-then when I get in at night I’m too tired to write. Damn thing is 625 pages long now and I’m not halfway finished. What a monstrous heap of rubbish! - or genius and artistry! - or both.

About three more days and I’ll be leaving Cornwall, and Britain and Europe. Will I ever come back? Who knows? I want to, of course-yet not as much as I want to explore Asia, and Australia and the Americas. But I’ll probably be back - not alone, I half-hope.

Thinking of girls, and sex and these brief parting little flying affairs of mine - I suddenly realize that I am tired and sick of simple animal love. I begin to long for something better, and more complicated, and more enduring. Every other thought or so - half-dream, vague emotion - is of her, the girl I love, the demon-possessed Jew-girl back there in the Promised Land, waiting for me.

Yet with the longing for the comradeship of a real live heart - and-brain - shared love comes the old feeling of restriction, constriction, a dragging weight. I still wonder if I am man enough for love, good enough for marriage, worthy of her. When I wonder I doubt, and doubt makes wonder. I’m still filled and bulging with adolescent urges and lurches, afraid of responsibility, afraid of hard work. But what would it be like - with her? Not this pedestrian and mediocre association, surely, but rather something grand and growing, full of beauty and creating for both of us not less but ever more freedom. Surely. . .’

As big as the West


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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.