And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

11 March

1620
Jens Munk,
explorer

‘On the 11th of March, the sun entered Aries; it was then the Spring Equinox, night and day being equally long. In those quarters, the sun rose in the East-South-East, and set in the West-North-West at 7 o’clock in the evening; but it was not really more than six o’clock on account of the variation. On the same day, the weather was fine and mild, and I had all the snow thrown off the deck of the ship and had it nicely cleaned. At that time, I had but few to choose between that could do any work.’

Nobody to dig the graves

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1856
Andrew Peterson,
farmer

‘Gut rails all day. Have now 2,000 rails.’

The Swedish emigrant

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1871
Lucy Cavendish,
campaigner

‘My precious Fred sent me a full account [FN: There had been a fire at Holker.]. Something in his dressing-room chimney did the mischief, but he suspected nothing till he was woke about 5 by a loud crash, and looking into the dressing-room, was driven back by suffocating hot smoke. He groped as fast as he could (no possibility of putting any clothes on!) to the other wing, alarmed the house, and set everyone to work saving pictures and books from the rooms below. The Duke and Uncle Richard worked hard, but when F. came down again from an expedition (commanded by the Duke in the advancing dawn!) to get on some borrowed clothes, the drawing-room and library were ungetatable, and alas some good pictures were lost: the Vernet (calm sea), the large Ruysdael, the Van der Cappelle, the Canaletto, and the S. Christopher by either Memling or Albert Dürer; engines came one after another and were efficacious in preventing the fire spreading to the old wing, which however was hardly to be averted except by the providential change of wind at the critical moment when the very doors of communication between the 2 wings were burnt. All is utter ruin of the new wing.’

Lord and Lady Cavendish

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1901
Isaac Albéniz,
composer

‘My misfortune is great; I am foolish with aspirations!!!.’

Albéniz and Liszt (or not)

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1912
Reginald Marsh,
artist

‘Back to school and out again. Went on my wheel up to Goodrich’s and was up in Will’s room with Will, Lloyd, and Winton when Jut sneaks me out without notice. We rode down back of the shooting club and got a bunch of pussy willows. We brought them home and then watched the kids playing marbles. I played Jerry and beat him a couple with Jut’s heavy steel ball bearing shooter I used.’

Pictures and vaudeville

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1917
Nicholas II,
emperor

‘In the morning I received Benckendorf. I learned from him that we had stayed here long enough. It was a pleasant realization. I continued to burn my letters and papers. Anastasia had an earache, so now she went with the rest of them [the sick children]. From 3 o’clock until 4:30 I walked in the garden with Dolgorukov and worked in the garden. The weather was unpleasant with a wind at about 2 degrees above frost. At 6:45 we went to vespers in the camp church. Alix took her bath before I took mine. I went to see Anna, Lili Dehn and the rest of our friends.’

Hope remains above all

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1943
Joseph Goebbels,
politician

‘From a letter from Murr I gather that prominent army officers at home are criticizing the Fuehrer very much. That is low-down and disgusting. Naturally a man like Keitel hasn’t the necessary authority to stop this sort of thing. One can only agree with the Fuehrer’s opinion of the top officers. They aren’t worth a hoot.’

The Nuremberg ten

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1957
Charles Ritchie,
diplomat

‘I cannot describe the state I was in yesterday (can it have been only yesterday?) when I flew back from Ireland - the hallucinatory depression, the complete undermining of all confidence, the corroding guilt and sorrow. I never expected to feel all this again. E says that it is a ‘natural’ consequence of our parting, but it went much deeper than that. . . She says she can’t bear to think of me sealed away from life. I can’t bear to think of that myself, and it is true; but if that last day is life, can I bear it? She says she feels it is some deficiency in her love which drove me to it, but isn’t it some deficiency in me? No, this strain was too great. I cannot forgive myself for my impatience, my unlovingness, my dry irritability, my inability to accept. Yet I can entirely forgive myself. I understand and must never forget that all my cut and dried plans are the amusement of a bored man and bear no relation to reality. No, it was heart-breaking. How can I bear the memory of that last morning at the Shelbourne. How can I ever forget it. Surely I can’t go on as I did before, yet I feel that is just what I will do; that the scales will form over my eyes, that merciful banality will set me off from life in my Cologne Nursing Home. Oh Elizabeth!’

V happy with E

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1968
Barbara Castle,
politician

‘The Daily Express has an incredible feature article: “Why Barbara is King of the Castle.” As I thought, the press is crediting me with having fought and won triumphantly a battle with my colleagues over the Transport Bill. Dick is a bit fed up about all this having loyally supported me all the way through and not relishing his role as the ogre of the piece. Frank Allaun popped up to me in the dining room in the House to tell me at more than one meeting recently - some with trade unionists and some with university people - my name has seriously been canvassed for PM. It is a flattering thought, but I don’t take it seriously.

In the meantime I am mopping up a series of office meetings. One concerned Clause 45 of the Transport Bill in which we really are taking a fantastically wide extension of the manufacturing powers of nationalized industries. Having won Cabinet approval for the general principle of extension in the Bill, I have sent my officials away to work on it and they have come back with the Bill drafted to give me practically limitless powers. It is amusing to hear them explaining solemnly that any attempt to define the powers in a Bill in order to limit them would merely lead to unwarrantable restrictions. Once again I marvel at the civil servants: these chaps really hate the whole idea of these manufacturing powers but, the policy having been adopted, they are taking the job of implementing it au sérieux. Hankey, Deputy Treasury Solicitor, assured me that the only way to control the use of the powers was by the provision officials had made for the Minister to approve all proposals for their use, to have the right to modify or withdraw proposals and the duty to publish them. The control in other words would be through the Minister. The CBI has been pressing for inclusion of a phrase to the effect that, in using the powers, nationalized industries must behave in all ways like ‘a company engaged in private enterprise’. Hankey is against my accepting this on the grounds that it doesn’t make any sense, but the others think it might have some advantages presentationally. The real safeguard is that I have got Bill Johnson to agree reluctantly to set up a separate subsidiary company to run the railway workshops. This of course would have to conform to the Companies Acts. But, having gone into all the pros and cons very carefully for an hour this morning, I have decided that an amendment to include the desired words would not do any harm and might do some good. I have asked them to consult the Scottish Office urgently and table a Government amendment on these lines.

Went along to Dick’s room at 7.45 to discuss the Transport Bill guillotine to find no John Silkin there. Dick was in a sour and desperate mood. He had been dining with Aubrey Jones, who complained he had never been consulted on the new proposals for P and I policy. Dick wasn’t too optimistic either about the Budget being radical. “The trouble is”, he says, “Harold and Roy will just think it is radical.” We sat there drinking and gossiping for nearly an hour waiting for John Silkin to turn up.

His failure to do so only heightened Dick’s irritation. That was his trouble, he said, he had to deal with a Chief Whip who was irresponsible. He himself was still seriously thinking of throwing in his hand: why didn’t he just retire and write books and see more of his family? In these moods Dick is not a very reliable witness to anything. But I am really worried by his state of mind.’

King of the Castle

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1972
Pete Seeger,
musician

‘In the morning we visit the museum, which combines archaeology with crafts and modern painting and sculpture. It is a small museum, but one of the best we’ve ever seen. There we find a 4,000 (!) year-old bronze drum. It is four feet high and was used for signaling in naval battles. But it is still in perfect condition. Decorations covering it depict the life and times of that period.

In the afternoon we visit an exhibition of war crimes. Latest ingenious bombs and devices to carry on computerized electronic warfare from the air are on display, enough to give anyone nightmares.

Evening - we go to the circus. Performers are young, but of high quality. We see trained monkeys peddling tiny bicycles. This country is at war, but the people are not grim about it.’

They mix it up almost as I do

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1975
Antonia Fraser,
writer

‘Everything is now all right. A knock. He was there. He clutched me and we clutched each other. At first it was almost desperate, he had suffered so much. Finally, he said: “I feel like a new man.” ’

In love with Pinter

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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.