And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

10 March

Elizabeth Gaskell,

‘The day after tomorrow Marianne will be six months old. I wish I had begun my little journal sooner, for (though I should have laughed at the idea twelve months ago) there have been many little indications of disposition &c already; which I can not now remember clearly. I will try and describe her mentally. I should call her remarkably good tempered; though at times she gives way to little bursts of passion or perhaps impatience would be the right name. She is also very firm in her own little way occasionally; what I suppose is obstinacy really, [though] that is so hard a word to apply to one so dear. But in general she is so good that I feel as if could hardly be sufficiently thankful, that the materials put into my hands are so excellent, and beautiful. [. . .]

Then as to her ‘bodily’ qualifications, she has two teeth cut with very little trouble; but I believe the worst are to come. She is very strong in her limbs, though because she is so fat, we do not let her use her ancles at all, and I hope she will be rather late in walking that her little legs may be very firm. I shall find it difficult to damp the energies of the servants in this respect, but I intend that she shall teach herself to walk, & receive no assistance from hands &c She lies down on the floor a good deal, and kicks about; a practice I began very early, and which has done her a great deal of good.

My dear little girl


Sidney George Fisher,
lawyer and writer

‘At 3 o’clock this morning I saw my brother die.’

Never to be forgotten


John Evelyn Denison,

‘We went in a special train from Paddington to Windsor, leaving 10:30, and being an hour on the road. Carriages were ready to take us to the chapel. Lady C posted down in her own carriage, leaving 8:30, reaching St. George’s Chapel at a quarter past eleven; she escaped much cold and draughts by this, and greatly preferred it. I went in my black velvet suit. The Lord Chamberlain said that was the proper dress. He told this to the Lord Chancellor, who, however, would go in his gold gown and his wig. The Lord Chamberlain said: We had no function to perform; we had no part to play in the ceremony, we were invited guests like others. I followed the advice of the Lord Chamberlain; the Lord Chancellor went in his gold gown. The seat allotted to me was the dean’s seat, close by the door. It was a very magnificent sight - rich, gorgeous and imposing. I don’t know how I could say enough about the magnificence of the spectacle. The pageant was admirably got up, and was well performed throughout. Beautiful women were arrayed in the richest attire, in bright colours, blue, purple, red, and covered with diamonds and jewels. Grandmothers looked beautiful: Lady Abercom, Lady Westminster, Lady Shaftesbury. Among the young, Lady Spencer, Lady Castlereagh, Lady Carmarthen, were most bright and brilliant. The Knights of the Garter in their robes looked each of them a fine picture - Lord Russell looked like a hero who could have walked into the castle court and have slain a giant. The Queen sat in her closet on the left hand side of the altar, looking up the chapel and high above it. But she did not affect any concealment. She looked constantly out of the window of her closet and sometimes leaned over, with her body half out of the window, to take a survey down the church. She was dressed in plain black up to the throat, with the blue ribbon over her shoulder, and a sort of plain mob cap.

As each of the royal persons with their attendants walked up the chapel, at a certain point each stopped and made an obeisance to the Queen: the Princess Mary, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Princess of Prussia, the Princess Alice of Hesse, the Princess Helena, the Princess Christian, etc.: each in turn formed a complete scene. The Princess Alexandra with her bridesmaids made the last and the most beautiful scene. The Princess looked beautiful, and very graceful in her manner and demeanour. When her eyes are cast down she has a wonderful power of flashing a kind of sidelong look.’

A dignified Speaker


Alma Mahler-Werfel,

‘This evening: tarot party with the Zierers, Frau Duschnitz, Spitzer, Lehmann, Hellmer, Epstein & Klimt. After dinner we took black coffee in the studio, danced and sang. Lehmann sang Rubinstein’s duet ‘Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh’ with Mama. Klimt is such a dear man. I’m writing this because they went back to playing cards and roped Klimt in too. At 2:00 the Zierers and Frau Duschnitz went home. Then the fun really began. Mama and Marie Lehmann danced a pas de deux, then we all sang glees and had a whale of a time. After we’d danced our fill, the party ended at 3:30. Mama said: The Zierers are bound to make remarks, because Klimt sat with you (Alma) all evening and spoke to you so much.

But he was delightful, talked about his painting etc., then we talked about ‘Faust’, a work which he loves as much as I do. No, he’s a really delightful fellow. So natural, so modest - a true artist!’

The talented Mrs Mahler


Henry Rider Haggard,

‘Woke up lo find that we were running over bush-clad sourveld with a few ostriches wandering round lonely Boer steadings. While I was dressing the iron lid of the washbasin fell on and crushed the top plate of the false teeth which were recently fitted with so much discomfort. A most annoying incident. Luckily I have the old temporary set with me which the dentist wanted to destroy.

At lunch time we came to a range of mountains called Outniqiua, or some such name, that tower above a little township of about 2 000 inhabitants, called George, which is largely inhabited by retired persons in search of quiet. The situation is fine on a flat plain dominated by tall grassy peaks down which run waterfalls that look like lines of wandering silver. At the beginning of the pass we went through government plantations of gums [eucalypts] of about 10 years of age which are doing splendidly. There are several of these here. Next we passed through some native bush in the kloofs, then came broom, heather and bracken, clothing the broad hill shoulders. From the crest of the pass the view was grand. The flat plain below diversified with plantations surrounding the scattered town of George and in the distance the great sea. All this district might be afforested, the hills with pines and the plains with gums. As the land seems to be worth no more than 10s. an acre it would be an excellent purpose to which to put it. About 4 o’clock we entered the Oudtshoorn valley, a hot and fertile place surrounded by hills, and everywhere saw ostriches feeding on lucerne in their wired camps.

On arrival we were met by the mayor and notables and taken off to see the farm of Mr. John le Roux where, after 34 years or so. I renewed my acquaintance with that ungainly but profitable fowl, the ostrich. By the way, at the station a gentleman whose name I think was Rex came up and asked me if I remembered him - as I did not he produced from his pocket an official order of the Pretoria High Court, written and signed by myself in 1878, appointing him a sworn interpreter. I wonder if he always carries it about with him. I was glad to see that the order was properly drawn and written in a better hand than I can boast nowadays. The signature, however, is identical with that I use at present.’

Sir Haggard’s diaries


Dawn Powell,

‘Hate novel as if it were a personal foe - it’s so damned hard and moves so slow. I want to write plays that go fast. Can’t conceive of having energy ever to attack a novel again. They’re so damned huge and unwieldy.’

Powell’s diaries auctioned


Victor Klemperer,
teacher and writer

‘30th January: Hitler Chancellor. What, up to election Sunday on 5th March, I called terror, was a mild prelude. Now the business of 1918 is being exactly repeated, only under a different sign, under the swastika. Again it’s astounding how easily everything collapses. What has happened to Bavaria, what has happened to the Reichsbanner etc. etc.? Eight days before the election the clumsy business of the Reichstag fire - I cannot imagine that anyone really believes in Communist perpetrators instead of paid [Nazi] work. Then the wild prohibitions and acts of violence. And on top of that the never-ending propaganda in the street, on the radio etc. On Saturday, the 4th, I heard a part of Hitler’s speech from Konigsberg. The front of a hotel at the railway station, illuminated, a torchlight procession in front of it, torch-bearers and swastika flag-bearers on the balconies and loudspeakers. I understood only occasional words. But the tone! The unctuous bawling, truly bawling, of a priest. On the Sunday I voted for the Democrats, Eva for the Zentrum. In the evening around nine with the Blumenfelds to the Dembers. As a joke, because I entertained hopes of Bavaria, I wore my Bavarian Service Cross. Then the tremendous election victory of the National Socialists. Their vote doubled in Bavaria. The Horst Wessel Song between the announcements. An indignant denial, no harm will come to loyal Jews. Directly afterwards the Central Association of Jewish Citizens in Thuringia is banned because it had criticised the government in ‘Talmudic fashion’ and disparaged it. Since then day after day commissioners appointed, provincial governments trampled underfoot, flags raised, buildings taken over, people shot, newspapers banned, etc. etc. Yesterday, the dramaturg Karl Wollf dismissed ‘by order of the Nazi Party’ - not even in the name of the government - today the whole Saxon cabinet etc. etc. A complete revolution and party dictatorship. And all opposing forces as if vanished from the face of the earth. It is this utter collapse of a power only recently present, no, its complete disappearance (just as in 1918) which I find so staggering. Que sais-je? On Monday evening at Frau Schaps with the Gerstles. No one dares say anything any more, everyone is afraid [...] Gerstle was hobbling on crutches, he broke a leg skiing in the Alps. His wife drove her car and took us part of the way home.

How long will I keep my post?

On top of the political pressure the misery of the constant pain in my left arm, the constant thinking about death. And the distressing and always unsuccessful efforts to obtain building money. And the hours of lighting stoves, washing up, keeping house. And the constant sitting at home. And not being able to work, to think.

After cursory reading I wrote a bad newspaper piece, ‘The New Spain’, after previously writing a bad article for Dante in Paris, ‘The Idea of Latinity in Germany’. Now I want to - no, I must return to the nightmare of the ‘Image of France’. I want to force myself to write now and catch up on the missing reading chapter by chapter.

I ordered a lot of books for my department, since it turned out there was still 100M left in my budget: Spain, 18th-century France and cultural history. On Tuesday I have to give a primary-school teaching candidate the now required unseen translation into French. I am so out of practice myself that I would only make a very poor translation. [...]’

Klemperer collecting life


Nella Last,

‘We took Cliff to the station at 7.45 and found a huge crowd waiting. There must have been at least 200 soldiers, airmen and sailors going off leave, and a lot had come to see them off. We heard by conversation that one group were on draft leave, and there was one young fellow, who looked about twenty-four, parting from his wife of twenty-two to twenty-four. She was such a pretty, frail-looking girl, who would be having her baby soon, and my heart ached as I saw her poor little brave face with its fixed grin as she waved goodbye. Stations to me are always rather sad-making, but tonight, with the mist wreathing and steaming under the roof and the blue lights half-obscured by smoke and mist, I thought it was the most hopeless, deadening place on earth. To see the people in the carriage with the blue light robbing them of colour was an added horror. I felt so tired and cold - a queer inner coldness - that I came to bed to write my letters.’

Carrying their gas masks


Charles Graves,

‘The Café de Paris still looks absurdly untouched. Poor Poulsen had fooled everybody into thinking that it had four proper floors above it [and hence had not been closed for safety reasons]. It hadn’t, and the bomb burst literally on the dance floor.’

A hell of a night


Pete Seeger,

‘We arrive in Hanoi amid palm trees and rice paddies to our right and left. Is this the land of “the Enemy”? We are greeted by 30 members of the Committee for Solidarity with the People of the U.S. Huge bouquets of flowers are put in our arms, and we are kissed and hugged, with tears of emotion in our eyes and theirs.

First impressions of Hanoi: It is a city (1,000,000) on bicycles, mostly manufactured locally with imported steel. An amiable, courteous people, small in size. They show a love of color in spite of little money - it takes two or three months wages to buy a bicycle. Trees everywhere, and so are bomb shelters. The city has not been bombed since 1968, but they think an all-out attack may yet come.

We visit a little temple-pagoda 1,000 years old. It was destroyed by the retreating French, and later rebuilt. We also visit a lovely park created by thousands of volunteers, who made a lake from a swamp! put in flowers, pavilions, goldfish tanks - wow! It shows what can be done with very little money only if you have love and perseverance. Someone has “sculptured” bushes to look like ostriches, lions and deer on the lawn. And then we see “elephants” sculpted by growing four small pines and weaving their long branches around to form legs torso, head, and trunk!

Another thing I have never seen: bicycles each carrying loads up to 800 pounds! The device was invented during the war against the French. A man walks pushing the bicycle with one hand on a diagonal stick behind the seat, and another steering by a horizontal stick tied to the handlebars. The load is on two platforms hung low one on each side of the bicycle.’

They mix it up almost as I do


Alan Clark,

‘God, is it already 10th March? A quarter of the year gone by, and I have done nothing, not answered a single letter, paid a bill - still less ‘played’ with cars or other hobbies. I must break out of the cycle, but I can only really effectively do so by giving ‘notice’ in the next three weeks. The sheer administrative complication that this entails compounds it. This morning, woken up from a deep muck-sweat slumber by Jane at 2.30 a m. I lay awake for about 1 1/2 hours, thought among other things - I really would just as soon pack it in now, just not go back to London at all. She rightly pointed out I must see through Options, the tank etc - leave my mark. Then again, I suppose, the Cabinet changes at Easter - if there is to be no General Election - but even Secretary of State would almost have to ask - because of how it might have been.

Finances are now in a total mess - Coats at 160+. Vast new outgoings of Mains in prospect, lead roof, moat leaking. I fear it will have to be the Degas because we will save the CGT by doing it through Andrew. Might yet scrape by as stock markets are recovering. But how do I see my future? Get the diary into shape as soon as you can, then really become a recluse, naturalist, pinpoint feats. Loch Shiel to Loch Eriboll. A kind of upmarket Albert (if he was called Albert) Wainwright. With a hint, perhaps, of Poucher (and a touch of class, as Jane said, with Robin Fedden).

But right at the moment, I am in really bad shape - shaking, inability to concentrate. The knowledge of this makes me medically apprehensive.’

They are real diaries


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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.

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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.