And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

22 May

John Evelyn,

‘Oates [Titus Oates instigated the fictitious Popish plot that led to several executions before being found out], who had but two days before been pilloried at several places and whipped at the cart’s tail from Newgate to Aldgate, was this day placed on a sledge, being not able to go by reason of so late scourging, and dragged from prison to Tyburn, and whipped again all the way, which some thought to be severe and extraordinary; but, if he was guilty of the perjuries, and so of the death of many innocents (as I fear he was), his punishment was but what he deserved. I chanced to pass just as execution was doing on him. A strange revolution!’

A most excellent person


Pehr Kalm,
explorer and botanist

‘The locusts began to creep out of their holes in the ground last night, and continued to do so to-day. As soon as their wings were dry, they began their song, which is almost sufficient to make one deaf, when travelling through the woods. This year there was an immense number of them.’

Toast, joints, mulberry trees


Ralph Jackson,

‘In the morning I cleaned my Shoes, after Breakfast I took a walk with Billy & R. Morton upon the Moor and saw soldiers reviewed By General Camdbell, after dinner I drew out the April Vend and carried it to Mr Featherston’s Office. I called at the Post house an at Doctor Hallowell’s Shop where I saw Dicky Cotesworth and he told me his Bror. & Sisters was gone down to Winkhamlee, came home I saw the Man that made Paper cake mix his Paste in the Burnbank, came home and sat in the House till Eleven o’Clock and my Master did not come in, so I retired to bed at ye time.’

Apprentice Hostman and squire


Neil Campbell,

‘Napoleon told me that he had taken Malta by a coup de main; that the inhabitants were so intimidated ‘par le nom de ces républicains, mangeurs d’hommes,’ that they all took refuge within the fortifications, with cattle and every living animal in the island. This created so much confusion and dismay, that they were incapable of opposition.

He requested me to write to the consul at Algiers, to secure the respect due to his flag, agreeably to the treaty.’

Of Napoleon, and a turtle


William Bentley,

‘A sad alarm at the Post Office. Long suspicions have ended in discovery that the late Robbery of the Mail was done in the Office. One of the Lads has been detected. Everything is done to conceal the matter & the boy is admitted to bonds. Had circumstances been different we should have found the treatment different. The public mind will soon require a change in this office. Lookers out may be found. Some of our Prisoners have returned from England & report between 5 & 6 thousand. Above two thousand of these are to be found among the Impressed men, when the wretches who talk much of integrity have reported to the State a less number than has been found in Salem, only one town upon a coast of several hundred miles. The vilest policy could not venture upon greater insults to the understanding of men.’

Society in Salem


Charles Brooke,

‘We proceeded as far as the Si Ludam stream, accompanied by only a few boats. The Dyaks were already suffering severely from sickness; six men in a boat next to mine were groaning with pains of colic, besides others who had been stung by the poisonous fish on the mud. Of course they all requested medicine. Nearly two bottles of brandy and a quantity of laudanum were finished this afternoon. I felt this to be rather early in the day for ailments - almost before we were out of sight of our river.

The next morning we stopped at Kabong, a sandy spit which lies at the mouth of the Kaluka river. Here we found about forty large boats, and many Malays. Watson had just gone on towards Kanowit with another forty boats from Saribus. The Kaluka district had been shamefully governed from time immemorial, and as yet this place has derived few reforms from the superior Government of Sarawak; in fact, to pass reforms while the country is still in the possession of Malay rulers, is to little purpose, as the latter are not capable of benefiting by them. New blood is sadly required in this place before any beneficial change can be wrought, as the population, without being vicious, is weak, and has no reliance upon their own regime, nor any confidence that they could successfully imitate others. The consequence is, that there are continual alarms and false reports. And now the Malays hastened on board with a cock-and-bull story that the Kayans had removed to some impregnable fastnesses. This was told me by an officious old Nakodah, who was desirous of returning to his wives. I sent him to his boat with a flea in his ear, and informed him he should have the honour of leading the attack if his story proved true. There were also many nice quiet fellows among the inhabitants, who talked very sensibly; but all allowed that considerable apprehension was felt for the success of such a distant undertaking, against tribes whom they had been bred up to fear as the most powerful of all populations.’

The Sarawak coast is safe


Frank Wedekind,

‘I wait for Katja in a cafe. We take a cab to St Cloud, sit down in front of the restaurant, and drink until it’s time to go back. We dine together at Marguerite’s and then drive back to my room at one o’clock, where I invite her to get into bed. She’s wearing a brand new silk dress from the Louvre that’s too short for her and hence fastened up with a hundred pins. The opening is even sewn askew. I demolish the entire contraption and dump her into bed. In spite of the good supper with champagne, I can’t manage more than a couple of tributes: her confounded practice of refusing to take off her underclothes may be to blame for that. I don’t care in the least for her caresses. Her lips are flabby and she slobbers all over my face. I keep on pouring cognac into her, and the powerful aroma comes back at me. Elle me veut tailler une . . . , mais elle me mord les testicles que je crie par douleur. At the same time she keeps on making such clumsy attempts to address me in the familiar form that I simply can’t bring myself to reply in the same terms. Between four and five, in broad daylight, I take her home, and go to bed about seven.’

Wedekind’s erotic life


Kate Chopin,

‘I have finished a story of 4800 words and called it “Lilacs." I cannot recall what suggested it. If the story had been written after my visit of last Sunday to the convent, I would not have to seek the impulse far. Those nuns seem to retain or gain a certain beauty with their advancing years which we women in the world are strangers to. The unchanging form of their garments through years and years seems to impart a distinct character to their bodily movements. Liza’s face held a peculiar fascination for me as I sat looking into it enframed in its white rushing. It is more than twenty years since I last saw her; but in less than twenty minutes those twenty years had vanished and she was the Liza of our school days. The same narrow, happy grey eyes with their swollen upper lids; the same delicious upward curves to the corners of her pretty mouth. No little vexatious wrinkles anywhere. Only a few good strong lines giving a touch of character that the younger Liza lacked perhaps. The conditions under which these women live are such as keep them young and fresh in heart and in visage. One day - usually one hey-day of youth they kneel before the altar of a God whom they have learned to worship, and they give themselves wholly - body and spirit into his keeping. They have only to remain faithful through the years, these modern Psyches, to the lover who lavishes all his precious gifts upon them in the darkness - the most precious of which is perpetual youth. I wonder what Liza thought as she looked into my face. I know she was remembering my pink cheeks of more than twenty years ago and my brown hair and innocent young face. I do not know whether she could see that I had loved - lovers who were not divine - and hated and suffered and been glad. She could see, no doubt the stamp which a thousand things had left upon my face, but she could not read it. She, with her lover in the dark. He has not anointed her eyes for perfect vision. She does not need it - in the dark. When we came away, my friend who had gone with me said: “Would you not give anything to have her vocation and happy life!” There was a long beaten path spreading before us; the grass grew along its edges and the branches of trees in their thick rich May garb hung over the path like an arbor, making a long vista that ended in a green blur. An old man - a plain old man leaning on a cane was walking down the path holding a small child by the hand and a little dog was trotting beside them. “I would rather be that dog” I answered her. I know she was disgusted and took it for irreverence and I did not take the trouble to explain that this was a little picture of life and that what we had left was a phantasmagoria.

This is Jean’s birthday - twenty-three years old today! How curiously the past effaces itself for me! I sometimes regret that it is so; for there must be a certain pleasure in retrospection. I cannot live through yesterday or tomorrow. It is why the dead in their character of dead and association with the grave have no hold on me. I cannot connect my mother or husband or any of those I have lots with those mounds of earth out at Calvary Cemetery. I cannot visit graves and stand contemplating them as some people do, and seem to love to do. If it were possible for my husband and my mother to come back to earth, I feel that I would unhesitatingly give up every thing that has come into my life since they left it and join my existence again with theirs. To do that, I would have to forget the past ten years of my growth - my real growth. But I would take back a little wisdom with me; it would the spirit of a perfect acquiescence. This is a long way from Jean, 23 years ago. I can remember yet that hot southern day on Magazine street in New Orleans. The noises of the street coming through the open windows; that heaviness with which I dragged myself about; my husband’s and mother’s solicitude; old Alexandrine the quadroon nurse with her high bandana lignin, her hoop-earrings and placid smile; old Doctor Faget; the smell of chloroform, and then waking at 6 in the evening from out of a stupor to see in my mothers arms a little piece of humanity all dressed in white which told me was my little son!. The sensation with which I touched my lips and finger tips to his soft flesh only comes once to a mother. It must be the pure animal sensation; nothing spiritual could be so real - so poignant.’

My wedding day!


Heinrich Schenker,

‘Very gloomy fog, right down to the ground.

Open letter to Mahler signed in a deliberate frame of mind; situation not without humor. ’

Diaries of a musical theorist


Andrew Russel (Drew) Pearson,

‘Jim Forrestal died at 2 am by jumping out of the Naval Hospital window . . .

I think that Forrestal really died because he had no spiritual reserves. He had spent all his life thinking only about himself, trying to fulfill his great ambition to be President of the United States. When that ambition became out of his reach, he had nothing to fall back on. He had no church; he had deserted it. He had no wife. They had both deserted each other. She was in Paris at the time of his death - though it was well-known that he had been seriously ill for weeks. But most important of all, he had no spiritual resources . . .

But James Forrestal’s passion was public approval. It was his lifeblood. He craved it almost as a dope addict craves morphine. Toward the end he would break down and cry pitifully, like a child, when criticized too much. He had worked hard - too much in fact - for his country. He was loyal and patriotic. Few men were more devoted to their country, but he seriously hurt the country that he loved by taking his own life. All his policies now are under closer suspicion than before . . .

Forrestal not only had no spiritual resources, but also he had no calluses. He was unique in this respect. He was acutely sensitive. He had traveled not on the hard political path of the politician, but on the protected, cloistered avenue of the Wall Street bankers. All his life he had been surrounded by public relations men. He did not know what the lash of criticism meant. He did not understand the give-and-take of the political arena. Even in the executive branch of government, he surrounded himself with public relations men, invited newsmen to dinner, lunch, and breakfast, made a fetish of courting their favor. History unfortunately will decree that Forrestal’s great reputation was synthetic. It was built on the most unstable foundation of all - the handouts of paid press agents.

If Forrestal had been true to his friends, if he had made one sacrifice for a friend, if he had even gone to bat for Tom Corcoran who put him in the White House, if he had spent more time with his wife instead of courting his mistress, he would not have been so alone this morning when he went to the diet pantry of the Naval Hospital and jumped to his death.’

Salty and petulant


Kenneth Williams,
actor and writer

‘Letter from Robert Sheaf, asking me to take part in a Shakespearean tour of villages. Sounds delightful. He saw me in Bordeaux, obviously thinks I’m young and inexperienced and would be delighted to join him and a few intense young men, doing Romeo all over Oxfordshire. Very funny reely. This little chic stays single. Read ‘The City and the Pillar’ by [Gore] Vidal. Wonderful book. Commended by Stanley in his last letter.’

Carry on carping


Jimmy Carter,

‘In the morning, about 5:30, we ran 3 miles or so. And then took helicopters. Went down the Columbia River to the Kelso area where the Toutle and Cowlitz Rivers dump into the Columbia. The surge of ash carried by the rivers had clogged up the Columbia ship channel from a depth of 40 feet down to only 12 feet. We are moving hopper dredges in there as quickly as possible to get the channel opened up because a number of ships are trapped in the Portland harbor and need to get a load of cargo out.

We then went up to Toutle Valley in the helicopter - first seeing large quantities of white-looking ash. And in the narrow river valley, we eventually began to see where the blast had directly burned the trees. Fifteen miles from the volcano, the trees had been burnt instantaneously with power at least equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear explosion. The blast that followed in a few minutes had leveled every tree in an area of 150 square miles. One cubic mile off the side of the mountain had been pulverized, most of it into ash the consistency of face powder. Less than one micron in particle size. This ash had flowed down the mountain, carrying large chunks of ice, and also large rocks and molten lava.

Spirit Lake, the head of the Toutle River, was filled with 400 feet of ash and lava. The level of it had been raised 150 to 200 feet. And there was a dam 12 miles long below the lake.

This is nothing like I had ever seen. It was much worse than any photographs of the face of the moon. It looked like a boiling cauldron, because large icebergs the size of houses from the glaciers on the mountain were buried underneath hot ash and lava. The icebergs were melting and the surface of the ash was caving in.

The steam from the melting ice was rising. There were a few fires visible, but there was nothing much left to burn.

Eighty-five or 90 people were either dead or missing, including, unfortunately, some geologists who were handling the seismograph stations and instruments to assess the mountain’s volcanic activity before it erupted.

The top 1,200 feet of the mountain was missing.

We couldn’t get all the way to the mountain because of heavy steam and cloud formations. When the helicopter pilot decided to turn around, he didn’t get any argument from me.

After a press conference [in Portland], we went to Spokane. Although they only had about a half-inch deposit of ash, being 250 miles away their airport was closed [it remained so for twenty-two days] because this extremely fine powder couldn’t be controlled and was suspended in the air. 

At other places around Yakima and Ritzville the ash was as deep as 4 or 5 inches, and they’re still not able to shovel their way out through this fine powder which has a specific gravity of about 2.7. It is non-toxic, and will ultimately be incorporated into the soil or on the bottom of lakes and streams, or carried out to sea.

Frank Press [Carter’s science advisor] says this is by far the biggest natural explosion ever recorded in North America in the last 4,000 years.

Only because the volcano was very closely monitored, was the loss of life restricted. And, of course, it is in an isolated area, as well.

My inclination is not to clean up anything we don’t have to, that’s not directly effecting human life, but to let nature take its course in the valley region and around the mountain, which has a completely different geological configuration now.’

A boiling cauldron


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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.