And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

8 March

1620
Jens Munk,
explorer

‘On the 8th of March, died Oluf Boye, who had been ill nearly nine weeks, and his body was at once buried.’

Nobody to dig the graves

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1713
Edmund Harrold,
wigmaker

‘It is every [Chris]tians duty to mortifie their unruly passions and lusts to which ye are most prone. I’m now beginning to be unesie with my self, and begin to think of women again. I pray God, direct me to do wisely and send me a good one, or none, if it be his will I must have one.’

Did wife 2 tymes

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1814
John Quincy Adams,
politician

‘Dr. Galloway was here this morning, and prescribed for me a vial of Sacred Elixir. I am very unwell, and have strong symptoms of the jaundice; a lassitude which has almost, but not yet quite, suspended all my industry; a listlessness which, without extinguishing the love of life, affects the mind with the sentiment that life is nothing worth; an oppression at the heart, which, without being positive pain, is more distressing than pain itself. I still adhere, however, to my usual occupations. I feel nothing like the tediousness of time, suffer nothing like ennui. Time is too short for me, rather than too long. If the day were of forty-eight hours instead of twenty-four, I could employ them all, so I had but eyes and hands to read and write.’

Election of a president

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1919
Harry Kessler,
diplomat and writer

This morning we had newspapers once more. The last two days have seen more bloodshed in Berlin than any since the start of the revolution. According to the Lokal-Anzeiger there have been five to six hundred dead. Ernst has had his ‘blood-letting’. For the moment the strike has been suspended. The workers have put forward fresh conditions: removal of the volunteer regiments from Berlin and repeal of the state of siege.

Kestenberg says that at the Chancellery they are drunk with victory. As far as the Majority Socialists are concerned, every angel in heaven is busy twanging his harp. They imagine that all difficulties have been overcome because, with Reinhardt’s assistance, they have mown down the uprising in Berlin. So Kestenberg thinks it unlikely that they will be prepared to enter into any compromise with the Independents or allot them any ministerial posts. In the northern parts of the city, seething hatred of the ‘West’ is said to be the preponderant mood. Reinhardt soldiers who go through the streets alone there are torn to pieces by the mob. Soon, it is thought, no one wearing a stiff collar will be safe in those quarters.

About a quarter to five I was passing down the Wilhelmstrasse when a lorry stationed in the courtyard of the Chancellery was being loaded with prisoners, both civilians and soldiers. The guards outside the building hustled passers-by along. I produced my identity papers, stopped and watched what was happening. Suddenly a soldier with a whip jumped on the lorry and several times struck one of the prisoners just before the lorry drove out into the street. The prisoners, mainly soldiers, stood with their arms raised and hands crossed behind their heads. Shameful, to see men wearing German uniform in that position.

I went inside the Chancellery and asked for the Commanding Officer. In his absence I saw the Adjutant. (These were Reinhardt troops.) I reported to him the incident of the prisoner being struck, demanded an inquiry, and had my testimony recorded. The lieutenant expressed his regret at the incident, but explained in exculpation that the prisoner was found to have on him the papers of three officers who have disappeared. There was, he added, a completely reliable escort on the lorry. Otherwise there would be grave danger of the prisoner not reaching Moabit alive at all. The bitterness of the Reinhardt troops is boundless. Last night a sergeant was stopped in the street by Spartacists and shot out of hand. Two soldiers have been thrown into the canal by Spartacists and others have had their throats cut.

All the abominations of a merciless civil war are being perpetrated on both sides. The hatred and bitterness being sown now will bear harvest. The innocent will expiate these horrors. It is the beginning of Bolshevism.

The electricity is on again. Business as usual in the cabarets, bars, theatre, and dance halls.

For some weeks, dating approximately from Liebknecht’s murder, a new factor has crept into the German revolution and during the last two days has grown uncannily, the blood-feud element which in all great revolutions becomes ultimately the driving force and, when all others are extinguished or have been appeased, is the last ember to remain burning.

Dined with the Einsteins

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1943
Joseph Goebbels,
politician

‘Whenever Goering cannot himself preside over the Council of Ministers for the Defence of the Reich, which is to meet every week, he wants me to be chairman. This is to develop into my becoming his permanent deputy. Lammers would thereby be relieved unostentatiously of his post as deputy to Goering and pushed back into the secretarial position which had always been intended for him. Bormann and Keitel, too, are really nothing but departmental secretaries to the Fuehrer and have no authority to act on their own. They are assuming authority at present because the persons who were given far-reaching powers by the Fuehrer failed to use them.’

The Nuremberg ten

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1958
John Wieners,
poet

‘The sun shines. Miss Kids is across asleep on the couch. She wakes and says “I dreamt I just put on...” I cant hear the rest. She goes back to sleep. Dana is asleep in the bedroom beside this one where the sun fills three windows. Miss Kids’ dark glasses sound/crack on the floor.

I must forget how to write. I must unlearn what has been taught me.

Last night I dreamed Alan appeared in a hallway where I leaned against a lintel; there were open doors on all sides and he presented me with a doll, his doll, the country one whose dress he ironed 3000 miles away. He was smiling, a great smile and I still see his white teeth and the black beard on his face. She was dressed in black, the doll, and her long thick hair was tied back the way I had left it. He had put it on top of one of those innumerable chests he had around his house. And I take it as a sign that all is well, I am and he is, today with the doll handed between us, he wanted me to have what he named was his. It is only Miss Kids and Dana who have hangovers. I must not let them hang me up.

She awakes again and asks “Is it cloudy outside yet?” I say “No” and an automobile horn busts our ears and the Chinese kids overhead beat and stomp on the floor.

These days shall be my poems, these words what I leave behind as mine, my record up against time. It is all very sad that we have to fight it. Possibly I may come to love time and its taking of my days.

“It well may be, I do not think I would.”

Right now, it is very fine. The cable car track shuttles in right inside the street and they empty the mail-box. A motor-scooter or motorcycle guns its motor and what bright flesh runs on Leavenworth Street. The 80 bus stops. Miss Kids has the Mohawk blanket that we (Dana and I) bought in the Morgan Memorial up to her eyes and her hair, her yellow hair is all over the pillow and her shut eye-lids. The cable car conductor rings the bell twice. It also stops. Only man and time move. And the space we are given to inhabit, so fast it is thru our fingers.

I must learn how not to write. I must watch with my 5 senses.

“the 5 perfections that are the 5 hindrances” and I must nail down those who would, all that would hang me up.

I must forget how to write

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1963
Dawn Powell,
writer

‘Was told yesterday I had not won the National Book Award. I felt some relief as I have no equipment for prize-winning - no small talk, no time for idle graciousness and required public show, no clothes either or desire for front. I realize I have no yen for any experience (even a triumph) that blocks observation, when I am the observed instead of the observer. Time is too short to miss so many sights. Also chloroforms, removes the weapons - de-fanging, claws cut, scorpion tail removed, leaves helpless fat cat with no defenses and maybe exposing not a sweet, harmless pet but a bad case of mange.’

Powell’s diaries auctioned

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1989
Derek Jarman,
director and artist

‘I have re-discovered my boredom here. The train could carry me to London - the bookshops, tea at Bertaux’, a night in a bar; but I resist.

Film had me by the tail. Once it was naively adventurous - it seemed then there were mountains to climb. So I slogged onwards and upwards, often against a gale, only to arrive exhausted, and find I had climbed a molehill from where I had a view of a few yards, not endless mountain vistas. All around the traps were set. Traps of notoriety and expectation, or collaboration and commerce, of fame and fortune.

But the films unwinding themselves in the dark seemed to bring protection. Then came the media and the intrusion. At first a welcome trickle, something new. Then a raging flood of repetition, endless questions that eroded and submerged my work, and life itself. But now I have re-discovered boredom, where I can fight ‘what next’ with nothing.

You can’t do nothing: accusations of betrayal, no articles or airtime to fill. I had foolishly wished my film to be home, to contain all the intimacies. But in order to do this I had to open to the public. At first a few genuine enthusiasts took up the offer, then coachloads arrived.’

Tired of the cinema

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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, 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.