And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

14 May

William Dyott,

‘A vessel with Spanish colours came close in with the land, as if she intended going into Hooks Bay. On the supposition of her having a reinforcement for the brigands on board from the island of Trinidad, a party was sent to oppose their landing, but the vessel did not run into the bay. My tent was, I believe, infested with every species of reptile the island produces: a scorpion, lizard, tarantula, land-crab, and centipede had been caught by my black boy, and the mice were innumerable. I was prevented bathing in consequence of what is called in the West Indies the prickly heat. It is an eruption that breaks out all over the body, and from the violent itching and prickly sensation it has got the above appellation. All new-comers to the West Indies are subject to it, and when it is out it is considered as a sign of health. Bathing, I was told, was liable to drive it in. Nothing can equal the extreme unpleasant sensation, and people sometimes scratch themselves to that degree as to occasion sores. About this time our part of the army was suffering in a most shameful manner for the want of numerable articles in which it stood much in need. Neither wine or medicine for the sick, and not a comfort of any one kind for the good duty soldier; salt pork, without either peas or rice, for a considerable time, and for three days nothing but hard, dry, bad biscuit for the whole army, officers and men. Two days without (the soldiers’ grand comfort) grog.’

Acts of wanton cruelty


Benjamin Haydon,

‘I began to study in London in lodgings in the Strand, 342, May 20th, 1804, and studied night [and] day, till I brought a weakness in my eyes, which obstructed me for 6 weeks. In January, 1805, I first entered the Academy. March, went into Devonshire, where I obtained bones from a Surgeon of Plymouth and drew nothing else for three months; returned to the Academy in July; met [David] Wilkie [Scottish painter] there first time. Studied incessantly, sitting up many nights, shattered myself so much obliged to leave off. Went into Devonshire for the recovery of health. Began to paint after two years’ application to Anatomy & Drawing, May, 1806. Commenced my first picture, October 1st, and finished it March 31st, 1807. Went into Devonshire for 6 months. Studied heads from Nature. Came to town. My dear Mother died at Salt Hill. January 1st, 1808, commenced by second Picture, Dentatus.’

Thirst after grandeur


Francis Lieber,
philosopher and teacher

‘Letter from Joseph Bonaparte. He says that the article on Napoleon in the Americana is the freest from all prejudice and most truthful of all he had ever read on the subject.’

Lieber’s Life and Letters


John Nash,

‘London - went to the exhibition with Mrs Nash & Anne and drove around the parks -’

Dined at Lyons


Victor Hugo,

‘I return home. I notice from a distance that the great bivouac fire lighted at the corner of the Rue Saint-Louis and the Rue de l’Echarpe has disappeared. As I approach I see a man stooping before the fountain and holding something under the water of the spout. I look. The man looks uneasy. I see that he is extinguishing at the fountain some half-burned logs of wood; then he loads them upon his shoulders and makes off. They are the last brands which the soldiers have left on the pavement on quitting their bivouacs. In fact, there is nothing left now but a few heaps of red ashes. The soldiers have returned to their barracks. The riot is at an end. It will at least have served to give warmth to a poor wretch in winter-time.’

Insurrection in Paris


Marie Curie,
physicist and chemist

‘My little Pierre, I want to tell you that the laburnum is in flower, the wisteria, the hawthorn and the iris are beginning - you would have loved all that. I want to tell you, too, that I have been named to your chair, and that there have been some imbeciles to congratulate me on it. I want to tell you that I no longer love the sun or the flowers. The sight of them makes me suffer. I feel better on dark days like the day of your death, and if I have not learned to hate fine weather it is because my children have need of it.’

Without seeing you


Heinrich Schenker,

‘My electoral “duty ” fulfilled for the first time, compelled to cast my vote for a socialist. ’

Diaries of a musical theorist


Nicholas II,

‘It was in different surroundings that we celebrated the 21st anniversary of my coronation! The weather was 15 degrees in the shade. Until Mass I took a walk with Alexis. During the day from 2:00 until 4:30 we spent the time out in the garden; I went for a ride in the canoe, and in the boat; and I worked for a while in the vegetable garden, where I prepared the new beds, and later we were on the island. After tea and during the evening I read.’

Hope remains above all


Giovannino Guareschi,

‘Today is my son’s fourth birthday. In him I relived my childhood, and now this is taken away. I count his days rather than my own, and even if I am a prisoner I wish that time could have a stop.’

A thousand pieces


Elizabeth Smart,

‘In the evening we walked to Longborough, and I had 1½ pints of cider and was nicely drunk. On the way home I dashed into the prickles because George made a tit-for-tat remark about dedicating his book [. . .]. I lay among the prickles along the hedge and wanted to cease. When I got home, George was having supper and reading. He got into bed, and neither of us said anything, except George who made a few caustic remarks. But when I got into bed we made love.’

O God George, can’t you see


John Rupert Colville,
civil servant

‘At No. 10 I found everybody looking rather strained after a week of violent rejoicing and tumult. Mrs Churchill was just back from Russia where her tour has been a remarkable success.

The volume of work is if anything more pressing than when I left. Victory has brought no respite. The P.M. looks tired and has to fight for the energy to deal with the problems confronting him. These include the settlement of Europe, the last round of war in the East, an election on the way, and the dark cloud of Russian imponderability. In Venezia Giulia we stand on the brink of an armed clash with Tito, secure of Russian support, who wishes to seize Trieste, Pola, etc., from Italy without awaiting the adjudication of the Peace Conference. The Americans seem willing to stand four square with us and Truman shows great virility; but Alexander has alarmed them - and incensed the P.M. - by casting doubts on the attitude of the Anglo-American troops, should there come an armed clash with the Yugoslavs. Equally, as regards the Polish question, Russia shows no willingness to compromise and storm clouds threaten. Finally, as if we had not enough, de Gaulle sends a cruiser full of troops to Syria, where the position is delicate and the feeling against French domination strong, and there is a possible threat of a show-down, with British troops involved, in the Levant.

At 2.30 the P.M. went to bed, leaving almost untouched the voluminous weight of paper which awaits his decision. He told me that he doubted if he had the strength to carry on.’

My first day at No. 10


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And so made significant . . .
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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 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.