And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

15 March

1792
William Bagshaw Stevens,
teacher

‘On this day I commenced my thirty-seventh year. May God of his mercy grant that the remainder of my Life be spent more agreably to his Will, and with more satisfaction to myself than the former Part has been! . . .’

A disappointed man

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1815
Neil Campell,
soldier

‘Wrote Lord Burgbersh with news from Draguignan of the 13th inst., and mentioned a report of Napoleon having entered Lyons.

Madame Mère, as I am informed, states that Napoleon had three deputations from France before he consented to quit Elba.’

Of Napoleon, and a turtle

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1856
Ford Madox Brown,
artist

‘Up late, to work about 1 till half past 3 then to see [Alfred] Stevens & Hunt & [Henry] Holliday. Stevens picture a progress evidently. Hunts are without doubt the finest he has done yet. The Christ & Mary in the temple is one of the grandest works of modern times & the lantern maker also is a lovely little work, but ill drawn. Hunt as at last decided against private exhibiting again so that is all knocked at head after so much jaw on his part about it.’

The might of genius

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1963
Kenneth Williams,
actor and writer

‘Stanley B. [Baxter] rang me. I was delighted & I shot up there to see him on the 30 bus. He drove out to Bucks. & we talked & talked. There are times (when he is prepared to be vulnerable)) when he is just superb. Disarming, honest, charming, and hilariously funny all at once. When he’s like this one could die for him. It was so good for me to see him.’

Carry on carping

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1965
John Fowles,
writer

‘Miserable cross-currented days, windless above and seething below, waiting for the first reactions to The Magus. Tom Maschler came the other night and took away a typescript of it. As usual, he was full of himself, of the excitement of publishing - but full less in a natural than an aggressive way. Some strange drive in him forces him to humiliate, to depress the writers he comes in contact with - Edna O’Brien said the same thing the other day. As if you are the writer he mistrusts, has no confidence in. Instead of joining his writers, he isolates them.

Anthony Sheil came to lunch today. He has been reading the typescript in bits all through the week, as he has to fly to the States tomorrow. ‘It’s superbly written and I’m sure it will be a success, but.. .’ and there followed a long list of criticisms. I don’t doubt he means them sincerely, I don’t doubt, even, that quite a lot of them are valid, but no one realizes the ludicrously tender state of the writer at this stage. One is the shorn lamb, and even the warmest breezes cool. And then too, as soon as one enters the literary world, all motives are suspect. Tom M would never say good of the book, because it might prejudice the buying price. A. Sheil has his agent’s prerogative to protect - his right to ‘guide’ and ‘criticize’ - and in our age inability to find fault is almost synonymous with lack of intelligence.

Meanwhile my nerves jangle I don’t lose whatever fundamental confidence I have in John Fowies the novelist, but if lose all confidence in novel-writing as a significant activity, I feel like giving up that side of writing, of concentrating on poetry, think-pieces - even learning to paint. Partly this is because I have a fascinated horror of the showbiz side of writing (rather, a horrified fascination!) The other day we took Edna OB, and Terry Stamp and his girlfriend. Jean Shrimpton the model, out to dinner; and then the next evening we went to a party at Edna’s, where she has a sort of microcosm of All London - all artistic London, anyway. Kingsley Amis and Elizabeth Jane Howard and Mordecai Richler and Wesker and the film directors Clayton and Donner and Desmond Davies. Edna thrives in all this glitter of names; this demi-paradise of celebrity. And at one level I feel envious of her (though I like her as well as any writer I have met). But I distrust intensely that drive to be in the limelight, in the okayest current of the age: where the cinema and the novel meet. Everyone in this world is driven frantically to destroy his or her nemo; all the talk is half vainly of one’s own prospects, or half enviously of other people’s. Who has an option on So-and-so’s book, who will direct this, who will act in that. All this must be inimical to good writing, let alone good living.’

Nature of the diarist

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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.

SITE DEVISED by Paul K Lyons

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.