And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

3 May

Cotton Mather,

This Day, my little Daughter Hannah, was taken very dangerously sick of a Feavour, with Convulsions, to such a Degree, that there was little Hope of her Life. My Lecture, with other Fatigues, coming this Week upon mee, I could not Fast and Pray y as I would have done. Yett I pray’d, and cry’d unto Heaven, for the Child, and openly and publickly, as well as privately, made this an Opportunity, to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, by the cheerful Resignation thereof unto Him. Now, behold, the Event! Resigned Enjoyments, will bee still enjoy’d. While I was Joyfully, and yett mournfully giving up the Infant unto the Lord, the Lord raised my Heart at last, unto something of a particular Faith, for its being restored unto mee. And, unto my Amazement, it came to pass accordingly.

Moreover, having written, with exceeding Pains, an Idea and History, of the Reformation, especially in the English Nation, and of the Obstructions which it has mett withal, all still asserted with Passages quoted from the Writings of conformable Divines in the Church of England; whereto, I have added, some Conjectures, of a Reformation and Revolution at hand, exceeding that in the former Century: I now sent the Manuscript, (Anonymous) by the Hand of my Brother-in-Law, to a Bookseller in London; and, if it bee published, I have a secret Hope, that it will much affect the Affayrs of the Church, in the Changes that are approaching. In this Treatise, because I distinguish the Friends of the Reformation, by the Name of Eleutherians, (while I call its Foes, Idumaeans,) for the Causes there assigned, I therefore entitled the Book, Eleutheria. Lord! Accept and prosper this my poor Endeavour to serve Thee!’

Cotton Mather, You Dog


Juan Crespí,

‘Invention of the Most Holy Cross. I said Mass here at this spot, and it was heard by all of this Expedition, and we lay resting in order for our beasts to approve the occasion of the fine grass here, and for the country to be scouted in the meanwhile to see whether they might find a watering place, in order for us to continue. On reaching this spot, close to one of the aforesaid pools we came across a village, who as soon as they saw us ran off to the hill and commenced shouting at us a great deal, seeming by their gesturing to be telling us to turn back; they were all naked and heavily beweaponed. Several times our commander called to them to come down to the camp without fear, but they never showed themselves nearby. I took the north altitude and made it 32 degrees 14 minutes.’

Settling in California


Peter Hawker,
soldier and hunter

‘Romney. Went out in the evening, saw several very large shoals of curlews, but could not get near them; just as it grew dusk I laid myself down flat on the sands: every flock assembled into one prodigious large flight, and pitched within ten yards of me. I put them up with the expectation of killing not less than twenty, and my gun missed fire.’

A life spent hunting


Karl Varnhagen von Ense,
diplomat and soldier

‘In the evening, at the Princess of Pueckler’s, the long-promised lecture by Herr von Humboldt. The lecture was very fine, and made an excellent impression. I had a conversation with General von Ruhle on Humboldt’s genius. He totally agreed with me, saying, ‘When he shall have died, then only shall we understand well what we have possessed in him.’ ’

Humboldt’s genius


Alfred Domett,
prime minister and poet

‘At Edinburgh for my first time! A wonderful place with all that a town should have, in compactness and completeness unmatched - a perfect ideal of a city! Romantic site of hill and vale - fine buildings and monuments mediaeval and modern; palace and castle; antiquated gloomy wynds and closes and lofty houses towering up like cliffs, dotted with windows like loopholes; all teeming with associations, historical, poetical, scientific - national and individual - heroic, tragic, comic, quaint, terrible or humorous; all in their appropriate places, disposed like a scene in a theatre - all as it were within a space to be seen almost at a glance! . . .’

Browning’s friend Domett


Frank Wedekind,

‘Sign my power of attorney at the Swiss Consulate, where Dr Stumm stamps me as a Swiss. Write to Mama. Dine with Katja and Weinhöppel, and discuss the Ballet Roquanedin at the Eden Theatre with him. Until two in the Pont Neuf, where we drink Baron Habermann’s health in Americain. Then I take the pair of them to an all-night cafe in the Halles, where Katja gets totally drunk. She refuses to take my arm, and I leave her to Weinhoppel, who trots out triumphantly with her into the Rue Montmartre. I keep out of sight and follow them about a hundred paces to the rear. Weinhoppel at last asks a passer-by, who directs him in the opposite direction. So they contrive to make their way over the Pont Neuf, which is just beginning to emerge in the first light of dawn, and get into the Boulevard St Germain, where they once more lose the track. They set out towards the Bastille. On the Boulevard St Michel they ask their way again and turn back the way they came. As they pass me, Katja asks me for her key. At the Eglise St Germain-des-Prés they lose their bearings once more and wait for me. I cross to the opposite pavement, they pursue me. I take refuge in a urinal and make them wait ages for me. Katja leans against a tree and starts crying. Finally they start walking round and round the urinal, come to the conclusion that I’m no longer inside, and set off again in search of the Rue Bonaparte. After wandering round for ages they return to my urinal, where I stick my umbrella out under the screen. They’ve finally found the right way. I once again follow them at a distance of a hundred yards, until Katja disappears in the entrance to the Hotel St Georges. Weinhoppel then comes up to my room. I go to bed about six.’

Wedekind’s erotic life


Pierre Gilliard,

‘Colonel Kobylinsky has received a telegram saying that the travellers have been detained at Ekaterinburg. What has happened?’

State of mental anguish


Alfred Kazin,
literary critic

‘Interview with T S Eliot, at his offices (Faber & Faber). Eliot now, if I calculate correctly, must be 57; face has aged and relaxed greatly, so that one’s first impression of him physically is of a rather tired kindness as opposed to the otherworldliness & hauteur of his early pictures. He was extremely kind, gentle, spoke very slowly and hesitatingly, livened up a bit when I pushed the conversation on to literary topics (at first, because of my official business, he spoke a little about popular education and his own experiences teaching for the WEA and LCC). He looks like a very sensitive question mark - long, winding, and bent; gives the impression that his sensibility is in his long curling nose and astonishing hands. I was so afraid that he would be standoffish or just reluctant that I spoke more than I wanted to, just to keep the conversation going. He said things which just verged on “you Americans,” but I grinned when he spoke of Truman and Missouri and he grinned back. . .’

The literary profession


Henry Louis Mencken,

‘It is a curious fact, but nevertheless a fact, that my piano technic seems to improve with age. I never practise, and seldom touch a piano save at the Saturday Night Club; in fact, the one in the house has not been opened for years. Nevertheless, I find it possible to play things today that would have stumped me a dozen years ago. Even my left hand is gaining more or less facility. In theory, the reverse should be the case, for my sight is naturally not quite as quick as it used to be, and my congenital incapacity for manual operations grows worse instead of better in other directions. But when it comes to playing second piano I am definitely better than I used to be.’

Mencken’s disagreeable character


Carolina Maria de Jesus,
rubbish collector

‘I went to the market at Carlos de Campos Street looking for any old thing. I got a lot of greens. But it didn’t help much, for I’ve got no cooking fat. The children are upset because there’s nothing to eat.’

There’s nothing to eat


Leonid Brezhnev,

‘Weight - 85.300. Talk with Ryabenko. Talk on phone with Storozhev? I know what he wants. Talk with Chernenko K.U.-? About PB agenda Tailors - gave the grey suit, got the leather double-breasted casual jacket Rang Yu.V. Andropov - he came and we chatted Worked with Doroshina’

To every historian’s despair


May Sarton,

‘My eightieth birthday. It seems quite unbelievable that I have lived eighty years on this earth. It makes no sense, and I do not believe it. Today, here at Wild Knoll, a very English morning with mist, the daffodils come up through the mist - romantic, and intimate.

As I lie here on my bed all dressed, I am looking at delphiniums, the first flowers that came, which are from someone I do not know, a fan in Oregon, and they have been so beautiful. The delicate, yet brilliant blue against white walls. What a joy they have been!

But this whole birthday is such an ascent of celebration that I can hardly believe I have arrived, as though I were at the top of a mountain. These last days, full of cards, many from readers, and all so moving. I was going to say “too many presents” simply because it is tiring for me opening things now - I feel like a little child at Christmas - but I am so touched by all the people who wanted to remember this particular birthday.

There are too many lists to cross off one by one because nowadays I am sending Endgame, my journal, to friends. I also have copies of the little book of my new poems that Bill Ewert has given me for my eightieth birthday to send out. Without Susan, who is here for the weekend, it would all be quite impossible. She creates order out of chaos.

We shall celebrate my birthday today, doing everything with ceremony. How rare the sense of ceremony is! Susan in a beautiful dress last night helped my heart. [. . .]

The whole day has been a festival of love and friendship. And as I say goodnight I think of my mother and of how glad she must have been when I finally came out of her, alive and all right, and she took me in her arms.’

The scarlet tanager


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And so made significant . . .
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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.