And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

9 March

Jens Munk,

‘On the 9th of March, died Anders, the cooper, who had lain sick since Christmas, and his body was at once buried.’

Nobody to dig the graves


William Hedges,

‘Yesterday, in ye Afternoon, we sailed neer divers fine, green, pleasant Islands, full of Coco-nutt and other trees; and finding fine, white, gravelly, clean ground between them at 16,18, and 20 fathoms, thought good (to prevent greater danger in passing in ye night) to drop Anchor, which we did neer one of them, where we saw two boats going into harbour.

We putt out a peece of a Red Ancient, to appear like a Moor’s Vessell, not judging it safe to be known to be English, our Nation having lately gott an ill name by abusing ye Inhabitants of these Islands; but no boat would come neer us, though divers rowed and sailed by at a distance to view and make what discovery they could of us.

At the West end of this Island was a Point of Sand and Rocks, which ran out neer halfe a mile, with ye Sea breaking upon it, & so had most of ye other Islands to ye Westward. About 4 or 5 miles to N. Westward of this Island I saw with my Telliscope a Parcell of 15 or 16 houses upon a Sand, which seemed 5 or 6 miles long. The sea broke very high upon it.

This Morning early (no boat coming off to us) we weighed anchor, and perceiving ye fairest Channel lay N.E., steered due North East for some time, and afterwards North, Having gott ye Island under which we anchored aaterne, 5 boats putt off from ye North End; 3 of them ran ahead of us, sailing very swiftly; [from] the other two, after great ceremony and caution (all our Europeans hiding themselves except ye Captain, [and] the Mogulls, who were passengers, and Blackmen, only appearing in sight), divers of them came aboard, one of which (having a finer Clout than ordinary about him, and a pretty, neat knife at his Girdle) was a Governor’s Son of one of these Islands.

Our Captain telling him there was a person aboard who could speak Arabick, he desired to see him. Notice being given me, I came out of ye Roundhouse, and saluted him in Arabick; to which, not returning a ready and proper Answer, I found he spoke so little of ye Language that no Discourse was to be held with him, so applyed myselfe to a Portuguese mariner who spoke Indostan (ye current language of all these Islands), to which he returned me evasive and unsatisfactory answers, bending his whole discourse to advise our anchoring near his Island this night, & then he would bring us off Wood, Water, and Hens, as much and as many as we should desire. All that I could get of information from him (shewing him ye Compasse) was that, after we had passed those sands and rocks now in sight of us, there was a fair Channel before us to ye North West; and that if we would stay this night, to-morrow morning he would send a Pilott and Boats to sail before us out of the Islands. But the Wind coming up a fine fresh Gale at S.E., I presented the young Governor’s Son with a fine Amber handled knife and a bag of Rice, and told him I was resolved to make no further delay, but to make ye best of our way and detayne him no longer; upon which they all got overboard immediately into their boat, seeming to be afraide we should detayne them by force.

Amongst other Questions, I asked them whether they remembered in what part of these Islands a great English Shippe was cast away about 15 or 16 yeares since. He told me it was upon ye great Sand where I saw the Houses, which were Magazines for ye Cowries that were taken for ye King. These Islands are so full of Inhabitants and boats, that we thought this the chief place from whence the King gets all (or greatest part) of his Cowrees.’

He came to us starke naked


Claver Morris,

‘Mrs. Evans was displeas’d with some of my Maid Servants for employing one to Hang her Dog which was found & brought to her dead; Though they all vehemently deny’d it. My Wife was so Ill with a Cough, Spitting, & a Fever, she kept Chamber.’

Cough, spitting, and fever


George B McClellan,
soldier and engineer

‘. . . We were removed from the Orator to the steamer Edith, and after three or four hours spent in transfering the troops to the vessels of war and steamers, we got under weigh and sailed for Sacrificios. At half past one we were in full view of the town [Vera Cruz] and castle, with which we soon were to be very intimately acquainted.

Shortly after anchoring the preparations for landing commenced, and the 1st (Worth’s) Brigade was formed in tow of the Princeton in two long lines of surf boats bayonets fixed and colors flying. At last all was ready, but just before the order was given to cast off a shot whistled over our heads. ‘Here it comes’ thought everybody, ‘now we will catch it.’ When the order was given the boats cast off and forming in three parallel lines pulled for the shore, not a word was said everyone expected to hear and feel their batteries open every instant. Still we pulled on and on until at last when the first boats struck the shore those behind, in the fleet, raised that same cheer which has echoed on all our battlefields we took it up and such cheering I never expect to hear again except on the field of battle.

Without waiting for the boats to strike the men jumped in up to their middles in the water and the battalions formed on their colors in an instant our company was the right of the reserve under [Lieut.-] Colonel Belton. Our company and the 3rd Artillery ascended the sand hills and saw - nothing. We slept in the sand - wet to the middle. In the middle of the night we were awakened by musketry a skirmish between some pickets. The next morning we were sent to unload and reload the ‘red iron boat’ - after which we resumed our position and took our place in the line of investment. Before we commenced the investment, the whole army was drawn up on the beach. We took up our position on a line of sand hills about two miles from the town. The Mexicans amused themselves by firing shot and shells at us all of which (with one exception) fell short.’

Musket fire in Vera Cruz


Edmond de Goncourt,

‘Dinner at Zola’s. A gourmet’s dinner, flavoured by an original conversation on matters pertaining to food and to the imagination of the stomach, at the end of which Turgenev undertakes to provide us with Russian snipe, the finest game-bird in the world.

From the food the conversation passes on to wines, and Turgenev, with that pretty art of description, with the artistic little touches which he alone of us all possesses, tells us about a draught of an extraordinary Rhenish wine drunk in a certain German inn.

First, the introduction into a room at the back of the hotel, putting distance between himself and the noise of the street and the rolling of carriages; then the grave entrance of the old innkeeper coming to be present, as a serious witness of the operation, at the same time as the arrival of the innkeeper’s daughter, a true Gretchen, with her hands an honest red, and marked with little white freckles, like the hands of every German school-teacher . . . and the religious uncorking of the bottle, spreading an odour of violet through the room; then, finally, the scene in all its details, described with the minute observation of a poet.

This conversation and the succulent food are from time to time interrupted by moans and complaints on our “beastly trade,” on the little happiness which good luck brings us, on the profound indifference which overcomes us for our successes, and on the annoyances which the least things opposed to our life can cause us.’

Journal des Goncourt


Marie Belloc Lowndes,

‘I have had large sales in cheap editions. Thus The Lodger sold something like half a million at sixpence in the Reader’s Library. My early books were all published in America, and years after Barbara Rebell had been brought out there by Scribner, Americans would speak to me with real affection for the book and tell me they constantly re-read it. I have always believed that had I continued to write the kind of books that I began writing, and which I naturally preferred writing, I should probably have made, for me, a very much greater and better reputation than that which has fallen to my lot.

On the other hand the fact, of which I was long ignorant, that I possess hidden away what is called a “plot mind” became of very great importance to me as a writer. A plot mind, is curiously rare, and does secure for its owner a kind of immortality. By that I mean that long after the writer is dead, the books go on being reprinted. Wilkie Collins is an example of this. Another is Dumas père who in his day was regarded by the French critics very much as were in my day the author of The Mystery of the Hansom Cab, and so on.

The story of The Lodger is curious and may be worth putting down if only because it may encourage some fellow author long after I am dead. The Lodger was written by me as a short story after I heard a man telling a woman at a dinner party that his mother had had a butler and a cook who married and kept lodgers. They were convinced that Jack the Ripper had spent a night under their roof. When W. L. Courtney, the then literary editor of The Daily Telegraph, in order to please a close friend of mine, commissioned a novel from me (I then never having written a novel for serial publication) I remembered The Lodger. I sent him the story and he agreed that it should be expanded. This was a piece of great good fortune for me, and would certainly not have been the case among any subsequent editors of my work.

As soon as the serial began appearing - It was I believe the first serial story published by The Daily Telegraph - I began receiving letters from all parts of the world, from people who kept lodgings or had kept lodgings. I also received two postcards of praise from two very different people, the one being Lord Russell and my old friend Robert Sherard, who had written interesting and revealing books concerning Oscar Wilde, including a severe and justified indictment of the Life by Frank Harris.

When The Lodger was published, I did not receive a single favourable review. When it came to sending a quotation for an advertisement for the American edition, I was not able to find even one sentence of tepid approval. Then, to my surprise, when The Lodger had been out two or three years reviewers began to rebuke me for not writing another Lodger, and reviews of the type of ‘Mrs Belloc Lowndes’ new book is a disappointment’ appeared.

Then, to my surprise, when The Lodger had been out two or three years reviewers began to rebuke me for not writing another Lodger, and reviews of the type of ‘Mrs Belloc Lowndes’ new book is a disappointment’ appeared.’

A plot mind is curiously rare


Elizabeth Smart,

‘On the bus [. . .] there was only one seat on top which a nondescript man was trying to camouflage. However, I was resolute and made him move over - sitting uncomfortably and precariously on the edge. Soon, the seat in front was completely empty and I moved into it - it was the very front seat. In a couple of moments a lady who had been sitting beside someone else came and sat beside me. She was not startling, but if you looked into her face it was queer and uncanny - you could see she lived in a very different world from most people. [. . .] When the conductor came up to collect the tickets she said to him in a very loud voice, “Why don’t you stop there and get some petrol. We might get on a bit quicker.” I smiled at her when she seemed to be muttering her hates to me - but I didn’t speak for fear of bringing down on my head the accusations of an insane person - though I wished I had later when she left. [. . .]

I went to the Tate Gallery on a 2 bus and was inspired and thrilled and imagitated by William Blake’s illustrations - especially the one of Dante and Virgil approaching the angel who guards the gates of Purgatory - there are mystical yellow and red lights and rays upon the water - and you can look into it and into it - and you feel a sacred feeling like the light of twilights and dreams when you were little. Strange, lost beautiful things and imaginings and forgotten inspirations.’

Everything is sunshining


Etty Hillesum,
young woman

‘Here goes, then. This is painful and well-night insuperable step for me: yielding up so much that has been suppressed to a blank sheet of lined paper. The thoughts in my head are sometimes so clear and so sharp and my feelings are so deep, but writing about them comes hard. The main difficulty, I think, is a sense of shame. So many inhibitions, so much fear of letting go, of allowing things to pour out of me, and yet that is what I must do if I am ever to give my life a reasonable and satisfactory purpose. It is like the final, liberating scream that always sticks bashfully in your throat when you make love. I am accomplished in bed, just about seasoned enough I should think to be counted among the better lovers, and love does indeed suit me to perfection, and yet it remains a mere trifle, set apart from what is truly essential, and deep inside me something is still locked away.’

Let us go gracefully


Charles Graves,

‘Paraded after six weeks’ absence with the Home Guard; secured my actual stripes from the Quartermaster’s Stores, after we were dismissed. Went to look at the Café de Paris [near Leicester Square]. The corpses are all out and there is very little show. Poor Poulsen. He always thought he was the luckiest man in the world, and behaved as such. Only the other night he was telling me that the Café de Paris was a complete escape from the war. Having been built as a replica of the Palm Court of the Lusitania, I always expected it to catch the blitz sooner or later.’ [80 people including Martin Poulsen, the proprietor, died when a bomb hit the day before. Graves wrote a newspaper column about Poulsen and the café, which he transcribed into his diary.]

A hell of a night


Joseph Goebbels,

‘The Fuehrer shares my worries about the carrying through of the 800,000-manpower programme. He has now become rather distrustful of Sauckel, who lacks the ability to carry through in practice the necessary transition process for this programme. He depends too much upon the labour offices, which arc quite unsuitable for this purpose. [. . .]

I related some incidents illustrating conditions in the occupied areas to the Fuehrer, but he already knew most of them. In this connection we happened to talk about the case of the Governor General [of Poland], Dr. Frank. The Fuehrer no longer has any respect for him. I argued with the Fuehrer, however, that he must either replace Frank or restore his authority, for a governor general - in other words, a viceroy - of Poland without authority is of course unthinkable in these critical times. Added to everything else, Frank is unfortunately mixed up in a divorce, about which he is not exactly behaving nobly. The Fuehrer refused to let him get a divorce. This, too, serves to play havoc with the Fuehrer’s relationship to Frank. Nevertheless he wants to receive him within the next few days to determine whether he can still be saved, and if so, to strengthen his authority once more. Frank is not acting very sensibly in this whole situation. He vacillates between brusque outbursts of anger and a sort of spiritual self-mortification. That’s no way, of course, to lead a people. One must have absolute self-assurance, as it is the only thing which can radiate assurance to others.’

The Nuremberg ten


Sydney Moseley,

‘(Bournemouth) Today is my 68th birthday - and it is time I finally closed my diaries! Would that it were possible to close my mind with equal emphasis. Thoughts, ideas, views continue to chase each other. . . How will it really end?

What comparisons can one make with the past? Were my times the ‘good old days’? Or were they, as our modern progressives call them, the ‘bad old days’? Well - where are we today? We have: penicillin; hydrogen bombs; radio; plastics; Teddy-boys; modern plumbing; Bikini suits; pheno-barbitone; television; cafetarias; automobiles for all; telephones for all; a broken sound-barrier; long-playing records; inflation; diesel engines; higher wages; guided missiles, and aspirin tablets which dissolve much more quickly than ever before. Are we any happier? - more secure? - really better off? One could write much on the subject, and the ensuing discussion would go on ‘far, far into the night’.’

Saw television!


Soe Hok Gie,

‘I said there is no such thing as love (my firm belief) - Marriage is morally nothing more than prostitution by contract every night. Love is nothing more than sexual desire made to appear as something beautiful... Pure love might as well be put in the rubbish basket. It doesn’t exist. It’s just something that is imagined.’

Politics is filthy mud


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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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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.

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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.