And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

21 May

William Lambarde,

‘There was holden at Maidstone a special session of the peace for the rogues, where divers were bound and whipped. I have signed a license for Thomas Godfrey to beg till Allhallontide (for his house burnt) within the limits of the Lord Cobham only.’

Virtuous William Lambarde


Samuel Pepys,
civil servant

‘. . . And in the Privy-garden saw the finest smocks and linnen petticoats of my Lady Castlemaine’s, laced with rich lace at the bottom, that ever I saw; and did me good to look upon them. . .’

Mistress of the bedchamber


Mary Browne,
young woman

‘The French people do not seem to think it wrong to cheat or lie, or the least disgraceful to be told they do. Sometimes when we thought anything we were buying dear, and told the shopkeeper that we had bought the same thing cheaper in another shop, she answered, “O madame, vous ne pouvez pas; c’est impossible.” ’

The French lack of delicacy


Johann August Sutter,

‘Saml Kyburg errected or established the first Hotel in the fort in the larger building, and made a great deal of Money. A great Many traders deposited a great deal of goods in my Store (an Indian was the Key Keeper and performed very well). Afterwards every little Shanty became a Warehouse and Store; the fort was then a veritable Bazaar. As white people would not be employed at the Time 50 I had a few good Indians attending to the Ferry boat, and every night came up, and delivered the received Money for ferryage to me, after deduction for a few bottles of brandy, for the whole of them. Perhaps some white people at the time would not have acted so honestly.’

Sutter’s Gold Rush


King Edward VII

‘In the forenoon I wrote letters to England, wh. occupied all my time till luncheon. At 3 o’clock we rode to the Arsenal, with Sir H. Bulwer. The Capidan Pasha received us, & we had pipes & coffee. We then went into a Caique belonging to the Sultan wh. he has put at my disposal & we visited another part of the Arsenal, wh. is small but seems tolerably complete. We then took leave of the Capidan Pasha, got into our Caique & rode [sic] down the Golden Horn into the Bosphorus & went on board to see the Turkish ship that had met us at the Dardanelles. We remained a short time on board & then went ashore, not far off fr. the Sultan’s Palace, got on our horses again & rode back to the Embassy thro’ part of the town. In the evening [. . the] Sultan’s band played during dinner & very well.’

Bertie in the Middle East


Charles Brooke,

‘We stopped to-day at Lingga, and I visited Banting for a few hours. There was little eagerness displayed by these Dyaks to follow the force. They are a strange and stubborn lot, and the only way to deal with them is to leave them very nearly to their own devices; after they have accused everyone of stupidity and want of forethought, except the right party (themselves), they find themselves much behindhand, and have extra hard work to overtake the force. The Bantings, however, have their redeeming qualities; they are braver than most of the other tribes, and are truehearted, but quarrelsome and troublesome in all expeditions. I believe it principally arises from their looking on themselves as the right-hand men in war proceedings; and as they have always been on friendly terms with the white men, they have escaped being attacked and burnt out.’

The Sarawak coast is safe


Heinrich Hertz,

‘Considered a current regulator for the generator.’

Hertz and his radio waves


Charles Piazzi Smyth,

‘[Toulouse] Sunday. List of 15 questions [regarding observatory and university duties] in readiness for M. Tisserand on visit to Observatory; answered that night. 8 - 8.30 p.m. walk to observatory. Steep hill. M. Tisserand obliging and merry as ever. He got 2 observations of Jupiter’s satellites in the early hours of this morning. Had been spending his Sunday in preparing a mathematical-astronomical lecture to be given tomorrow at 8 a.m. in the university and was ready for a night’s work now. He answered my questions; then with addition of M. Perrotin we enter the Reflector Dome in garden. They begin showing Venus, though it was low; no clamping; no clockwork; with powder of 170. Very brilliant, very white and well defined but accompanied by ghost . . . Next looked at Vega. No finding by setting of circles but only by pointing along tube (needs 2 men to turn dome). Companion to Vega surprisingly distinct. Nebula (annular) in Lyra a great triumph, so brilliant in so dark a field yet nebular in texture. [Observed] Jupiter [and] Polaris.

What birds are these whose songs come in at the open shutter from the garden? asks Jessie. Nightingales, responds M. Tisserand; and so it is, they abound in this obs[ervatory] of dead men’s bones. Most complaisant doorkeeper shows us halfway down the hill and we proceed, the fair and the shows and the cafes are still at 11 p.m. in full swing; a rotating system of wooden horses and carriage is in great request among men and women and children of all degrees. They revolve most quickly and most smoothly: an example to the dome revolvings of an observatory. A horse turning in a small circle inside seems to do it all.’

Accompanied by ghost


Louis David Riel,

‘At my table, I will only have what is strictly necessary - water or milk to drink, no dessert, no syrup.

I do not even want to sit comfortably. I want to punish myself, mortify myself in everything.’

Canada’s rebel hero


Mahadev Desai,
political aide

‘The riots in Bombay are subsiding. On Saturday none was murdered, but about 25 persons were wounded. Dahyabhai and Manibehn interviewed the Sardar and said that in Bombay too Government had asked the people to seek Congress protection. Thus Bapu’s intuition was correct.

In the evening we talked about the communal riots. The Sardar said, “It is not a straight fight. If people are stabbed in the back and women are injured in the chawls by Muslims disguised as Khadi-clad Congressmen, what is to be done and what is the advice to be given to the citizens of Bombay?” Bapu replied he had pointed out the way: Fight it out or die without offering resistance. The Sardar asked how Hindus could fight it out, as they were not capable of doing what the Muslims did. Bapu remarked that was not so. All were capable of doing what they did, as for instance in Kanpur. “Dr. Munje says Hindus should fight Muslims with the same weapons and the same methods. I think he is a brave man; he speaks out his mind without any reservations. But I hold that Hindus are incapable of fighting the Muslims with the latter’s weapons, as it is not in their nature. Therefore we must die unresistingly. The ahimsa observed at present is practical ahimsa and cannot make any impression on Muslims.” I said, “If big parties face and fight each other, we can imagine one party to be ready to follow the advice of dying without offering resistance. But what can be done about stray cases of murder and loot?” Bapu replied, “My advice would be the same even in such cases. But it is no good as no one is ready to accept it. This is a pointer to my own weakness. My ahimsa is not as it should be spontaneously effective. And yet it is a pity that people seek my advice. The poor things are on the horns of a dilemma. They would be able to find a way out for themselves if I were not alive. My presence is an obstruction for them, and such being the case, fasting is my only resource. If I had been a free man and in Bombay, I might have already employed that weapon.” I remarked that it was then a good thing that Bapu was behind prison bars. Bapu agreed and observed that if they had been free men, they would have been unable to do anything useful. I said I would not wonder if there was now open civil war. Bapu reminded us that civil war had actually broken out before as for instance at Kohat. And in England he had pocketed any number of insults from the Muslims and drunk many a bitter draught uncomplainingly.

To Raihana Tyebji Bapu wrote a letter, hoping all members of the family had derived benefit from the visit to Abu. Did Abbas Saheb read anything? Abu must have given him back the vigour of youth. But the madness in Bombay had damped their spirits. Bapu could not for the life of him understand, how one man could fight another in the sacred name of religion. But he must restrain his mind as well as pen. It was poison that he had been drinking now from day to day.’

Gandhi and the cat


Fred Bason,

‘Yesterday I had luncheon at the Hyde Park Hotel with Mr N. from Estoril in Portugal. It was a wonderfull luncheon and do you know I had for the first time ever GULLS eggs! They cost I think 5s. each. God! Talk about eating money. On my oath I couldn’t tell the difference between them and the eggs of Walworth at 3d. each. But my host said he liked them and they made a difference as he couldn’t get ’em in Portugal.

So there I had gulls eggs and smoked salmon and all things wonderfull, plus lovely conversation with one of my admirers, and although it was our first meeting, in 5 minutes it was as if we had known each other 5 years. We got on well.

And do you know what he did? Of course you dont. Well, after luncheon he took me in a taxi to Berkeley Square and from a florists named M. Stevens he bought 6 wonderful orchids in a glorious box (with gay pink ribbon) which must have cost at least a quid. And I had to take home orchids for Lizzie. She’d never seen an orchid in all her life. She almost cried with delight! It gave her enormous pleasure and Mr. N. knew it would in advance. I was sent home in the taxi and on instruction from Mr. N. the taxi man bought one of my books out of his tip. I had to sign my book to this taxi man and I was so tight that it was a job.

Well, Diary. I put it to you. I’ve been ill 3 weeks. I go out. I have a double sherry, then again a sherry; then a white wine, then a rich red wine, then kummel - whatever that is - plus Gulls Eggs!! My God, if Mr N. had’nt sent me home in a taxi I’d still be in Berkeley Sq listening to the Nightingale what aint there! All this happened yesterday but I will take days to get over it - and Lizzie has orchids! Oh, aint it lovely to have admirers who are thoughtfull friends as well! Yet in Walworth Ive never even had a kind word in 30 years concerning my books.’

The Loud Bassoon


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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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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.