And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

15 March

William Bagshaw Stevens,

‘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


Neil Campell,

‘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


Edward Belcher,

‘Our ice-gauge having been raised, we content ourselves with the simple measurement of the in-shore ice, principally with the intent of discovering the approximate moment when the sea-water season terminates; or when the ice crystals, constantly pervading the sea beneath the floe, cease to attach themselves to the under surface, and thus increase the homogeneousness of the floe. Our thickness today affords sixty-five inches, = five feet five inches, and the last ten-day temperatures as under:- Max - 19.00°; min. -49.62°; mean, -34.629°; previous, -32.733°

Our last Division has been delayed to this preconceived date, in the expectation of a decided change of season; and the temperature having risen to -23°, and the wind lulled, I determined to push forward Messrs. Grove and Pim, with the ‘Dauntless’ and ‘Reward,’ on the morrow, should the weather continue propitious.’

I do not quit my post here


Ford Madox Brown,

‘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


Charles Tiplady,

‘At 5 15 p.m., a shock of earth-quake was distinctly felt in this town by great numbers of persons.’

Sunday school demonstration


Bruce Lockhart,

‘We are to leave for Moscow tomorrow. Petrograd looked very beautiful. Trotsky now made War Minister. Sent off a very hot telegram on Japanese situation. Lenin made great speech at Congress to show why peace was necessary. He said: “One fool can ask more questions than ten wise men can answer.” ’

Secret agent in Moscow


Pierre Gilliard,

‘The townspeople, hearing of our situation, find various ways of sending us eggs, sweetmeats, and delicacies.’

State of mental anguish


James Evershed Agate,

‘Moths won’t eat silk. I made this important discovery on going to my hat-box to fish out my topper for the Royal tea-party. The hat-box is one of those old-fashioned double ones; I found that the brown bowler that I used to wear at the horse shows had been completely eaten away, whereas the topper was intact. Bought a new tie, the first since the war, and paid the shocking price of 37s. 6d. for it. The morning coat, having made fewer than a dozen public appearances, is still very handsome, and altogether I think I was looking fairly smart when I presented myself at the Palace half an hour too early. Brother Harry having telegraphed from York that on no account was I to forget the occasion or be late. Nobody else in the enormous, empty room except a highly distinguished, ambassadorial personage chatting with some kind of Sultan. Presently an official came up to me and said, “Corps Diplomatique?” I replied, in equally succinct French, “Non.” He said, “Are you British?” I said, “Gad, sir !” He said, “The other room, if you please.” So I went into the other room, which was entirely empty. I had time to admire the furniture, which was magnificent; but the pictures seemed to me to be staggeringly unworthy of their setting. They were so conspicuously faded and unremarkable, though I suppose it would take a David or a Delacroix to make anything really effective out of troops being reviewed. Presently some people that I knew came in - Rebecca West, Irene Vanbrugh, Harriet Cohen, Arnold Bax, A. P. Herbert, a couple of my editors - and I recognised in to-day’s party a very gracious gesture to people of my kind, with a sprinkling of the Services. Next I found myself wondering what my feelings would have been if, fifty years ago, I had been granted prevision of this afternoon. What would my kid brother Harry have thought? This led to a moment of something ridiculously like sentiment. And then we formed up in single file, our cards were taken from us and handed from admiral to general, and general to admiral, five or six in all, till they reached the Lord Chamberlain, who read out our names. The King, who was in naval uniform, asked with enormous charm how I did. The Queen, in dove-grey and wearing pearls, smiled as though she remembered me, while the two princesses shook hands very shyly and prettily. While this was going on, a small band discoursed Haydn and Mozart, after which we drank tea out of some very beautiful china.’

Not careless jottings


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


John Fowles,

‘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


Pete Seeger,

‘I am invited for a 3-hour session at the home of the Delegation to DRVN (North Vietnam) from the PRG (Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam). You see, the NLF [National Liberation Front, also known as the Vietcong] is not a bunch of guerillas in the forest, but a full-fledged government, with considerable light industry, including color printing, textile, etc. It includes communists in its leadership, but also a lot of non-communists, all united under one slogan: Drive out the Yankees and their puppets.

Their leader, a wiry, intense man a little younger than me, is a prominent writer, a man who knows literature of Europe and America well.’

They mix it up almost as I do


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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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Kip Fenn is a success: his career has taken off within a major UN agency trying to spread wealth from the rich to the poor. But all is not well with the world - the golden age of oil and chips is now over, and unsustainable development is leading to social turmoil, and to world war. Kip has found love and a new family, but he can find no way to stop his older children self-destruct; nor does he realise his partner’s deceit.

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Third time lucky - Kip Fenn finds true love. His UN career though is ending with a whimper. Another terrible war is cut short by the devastating Grey Years, and while nations rebuild many individuals turn Notek. In restless retirement, Kip’s lifelong passion for vintage photos sees him launching a new arts institution. But who is the mysterious visitor by his bedside, and how will she affect his planned deathday?


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.