And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

23 March

955
Ki no Tsurayuki,
writer

‘That evening as he went up to the Capital, he saw in the shops at Yamasaki the little boxes painted with pictures and the rice-cakes twisted into the shape of conch shells, just the same as ever; and he wondered if the hearts of shopkeepers also were the same. [. . .] Planning to arrive at the Capital by night, he did not hasten. The moon had risen, and he crossed the Katsura River in bright moonlight. [. . .] He recited this also:

Once Katsura’s Stream
Seemed to me as far away
As the clouds of heaven
Now, while crossing, I perceive
It has wet my dipping sleeve.

And again he composed this:
Well I know my heart
And the River Katsura
Never were alike:
Yet in depth my heart would seem
Not unlike the flowing stream.

These too many verses are due to his excessive pleasure at reaching the Capital.’

The earliest literary diary

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1748
Thomas Gyll,
lawyer

‘The wife of Robert Spearman of Oldacres, near Sedgefield, esq., who died the last week at his house in Old Elvet, having lingered of a palsy, was this day buried with great funeral pomp in Bow church in Durham.

And the same day old Henry Pratt, the bell-ringer, was buried at St. Mary’s, South Bailey, aged near 90. He had formerly been coachman to Dean Comber.’

Who died the last week

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1847
George Brinton McClellan,
soldier

‘Firing continued from our mortars steadily - fire of enemy by no means so warm as when we opened on the day before. Our mortar platforms were much injured by the firing already. The 24 pounder battery had to be re-revetted entirely - terreplein levelled. During this day and night the magazine was excavated, and the frame put up. Two traverses made the positions of platforms and embrasures determined. Two platforms laid and the guns run in the embrasures for them being partly cut. One other gun was run to the rear of the battery.’

McClellan’s war in Mexico

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1869
Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake,
doctor

’10.30 a.m. Now, having done all that lies in one woman’s power - except, perhaps, an article in the Daily Review, having left a book, as a reminder, on Bennett, hunted up Sir J. Y. S. and crammed him [with] Mlle Unpronounceable at St. Petersburg, I have to do what is hardest of all, wait.

Four distinct votes in my favour, I believe, if all go and all keep faith with me. Allman ... Bennett, Balfour, Simpson. Against me distinctly, Christison, Laycock, and probably Henderson. Doubtful, Turner, Spence, and, perhaps, Syme. Besides Maclagan (ill), and Playfair (probably absent).

To lunch with Simpson at 2 p.m., and hear results.

1.45 p.m. Waiting for the verdict? How will it be? Somehow the probability seems rather for me this time, but there, the Fates are so habitually adverse! I can’t help hoping and yet I don’t expect success. I hope they won’t ‘give an uncertain sound’ and put it off indefinitely!

8 p.m. Gloria tibi Domine!... At 2 p.m. went to Sir J. Y. S., found him out, but met him in the street. ‘Yes, ye’re to be let in to the classes if the Senatus allow ye,’ of course with all provisos as to ‘tentative,’ etc. But the great fact is granted, the thin end of the wedge in, and, though nothing is secure till after the Senatus on Saturday, yet it is an enormous triumph!

Three more days’ of calling and entreating and arguing, then ‘after all these voices ... peace.’

After all, my aspiration to L. E. S. was not so ill-founded, ‘If I can be the first woman to open a British University’ then surely I, like Charlotte Brontë ‘shall have served, my heart and I’ even if I die straightway.

For May, June and July, the Botany, Natural History, and Histology, with preparation for the Matriculation exam. Oh, dear, I do feel so exultant.... In one sense I do see all the life-preamble to have been needed. The experience in the United States gave me much more chance of success now, the life there gave me health really to use the chance when it comes.

I hardly fear the future at all; not the students, nor the work. I am sorry not to be with Mother, but on the whole this must be best, I think. Four years of College! All alone? Surely not literally all the time - spiritually, who knows?

What a pity, as I said to U.D. that they will use up gold for toasting-forks! Well, I am sure the hind-wheels may run by faith for a long time now. Perhaps the tangle is beginning to unravel after all these years, and I shall have to cry, ‘Oh, why didn’t I bear on better then!’ I suppose that is always the feeling when the cloud begins to lift. But till it lifts,

‘Still it is hard. No darkness will be light

Though we should call it light from night till morn.’

And surely the Father pitieth His children.’

Pioneering women’s education

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1898
Alma Mahler-Werfel,
musician

‘Frau Radnitzky came to give Gretl her lesson. I avoided her, like a dog that’s committed some misdemeanour. She vented her fury on the innocent Gretl. Well, on Saturday I’ll probably hear all about it. I’m looking forward to it already. Mama and I went to Taubenrauch to order our spring oufit - frightfully expensive - 90 fl! Mama said: You know, Alma, I still have 100 fl in a savings account that nobody knows about, I shall use it to foot the bill.

My eyes filled with tears, and I resolved to withdraw the 20 fl in Gretl’s and my post office book and give them to Mama. Gretl agreed.

This evening: Mama was at Dr Herz’s. We went to the Zierers’. Something funny happened: Flora wasn’t quite certain whether we’d be coming, and had invited Amelie Engel. All of a sudden she came along, kicked up a hell of a fuss and said: Do you think I came here to hobnob with the Schindlers?

But she stayed all the same, and we - Lilli, Gretl and I - treated her with utter contempt. Lilli was even rude to her, just for our sake. After dinner I was asked to play. I didn’t. Then Amelie came to me and said: Fräulein, you must have heard what I said. I’m really sorry, you must surely have misunderstood me.

And she made her apologies as prettily as you could imagine - far better than I ever could. So then I played, and so did she. She played waltzes beautifully, and I played quite well for the first time in days.’

The talented Mrs Mahler

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1909
William Butler Yeats,
writer

‘March 23d. McDonagh called to-day. Very sad about Ireland. Says that he finds a barrier between himself and the Irish-speaking peasantry, who are “cold, dark and reticent” and “too polite”. He watches the Irish-speaking boys at his school, and when nobody is looking, or when they are alone with the Irish-speaking gardener, they are merry, clever and talkative. When they meet an English speaker or one who has learned Gaelic, they are stupid. They are a different world. Presently, he spoke of his nine years in a monastery and I asked what it was like, “Oh” he said, “everybody is very simple and happy enough. There is a little jealousy sometimes. If one brother goes into town with a Superior, another brother is jealous.” ’

The poet’s labour

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1914
Mary Fuller,
actress

‘I did battle with the dressmaker and tailor today. Dressmakers have whims of their own which cannot be dislodged, just as the genus “chauffeur” always goes down the street you dont wish to go down. Sweet perversities that come from heaven to test our patience and make us stronger! The dressmaker’s art is necessary, and no lovely thing can be born save with much travail.’

What happened to Mary

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1944
Dawn Powell,
writer

‘For a writer or artist there is nothing to equal the elation of escaping into solitude. The excited feeling of stolen rapture I feel on closing the door of this little room up here, knowing no one can find me, no one will speak to me. I look over rooftops into sky and far-off towers. This is exactly like my sensation of sheer exhilaration as a child when I got up into the attic or in the treetop or under a tree way off by the road where I was alone with a sharp pencil and notebook.’

Powell’s diaries auctioned

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1998
Deborah Bull,
dancer

‘Another year older. I have just filled in a survey on the tube and noticed that I have moved one box further in the great pigeon hole of life. I can no longer tick the 25-34 age group. I’ve moved into the 35-44 bracket. Blimey. How did that happen? Last time I looked I was 21.

I have also realised with a jolt that table dancing is out of the question as an alternative career. Today I bought The Stage, whose arts news has been bang on this year, in an effort to find word about the implications for us of Gordon Brown’s budget. No luck, so I flicked through the employment pages instead. All the adverts seeking dancers (mostly for cruise liners and clubs) stipulate that applicants must be under the age of 35. I’ve missed my chance. I guess I’m more of a laptop dancer than a lap dancer, so it’s no great hardship. I suppose there’s always a career for me as a touch typist.

I’m on my way home from a meeting with Sir Richard Eyre; the name becomes flesh at last. He’s a strikingly good-looking man with such an air of weariness that I wanted to gather him up and take him home for a hot dinner. I was suprised to have been asked to contribute to the ongoing debate over the Opera House’s future which will form the basis of his report. But apparently various people had assured him that he really must hear what I had to say on the matter.’

A laptop dancer

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2003
Clare Short,
politician

‘. . . terrible week - decided to stay in the Gov - horrendous media and bitter disappointment to all who were buoyed by my threat to resign.’

No. 10 hostile to me

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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.

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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.