And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

31 May

1682
Jacob Bee,
tradesman

‘Betwixt 11 and 12 at night, was a very fearfull thunder, with flalshes of fire, very tirrible.’

Very fiery comets

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1836
Thomas Mitchell,
administrator and explorer

‘I now ventured to take a north-west course, in expectation of falling in with the supposed Darling. We crossed first a plain about two miles in breadth, when we came to a line of yarra trees which enveloped a dry creek from the north-east, and very like Clover-creek. We next travelled over ground chiefly open, and at four miles crossed a sand-hill, on which was a covered tomb, after the fashion of those on the Murray. On descending from the sand ridge, we approached a line of yarra trees, which overhang a reach of green and stagnant water. I had scarcely arrived at the bank, when my attention was drawn to a fire, about a hundred yards before us, and from beside which immediately sprung up a numerous tribe of blacks, who began to jump, wring their hands, and shriek as if in a state of utter madness or despair. These savages rapidly retired towards others who were at a fire on a further part of the bank, but Piper and his gin going boldly forward, succeeded, at length, in getting within hail, and in allaying their fears.

While he was with these natives, I had again leisure to examine the watercourse, upon which we had arrived. I could not consider it the Darling, as seen by me above, and so little did it seem “the sister stream” to the Murray, as described by Start, that I at first thought it nothing but an ana-branch of that river. Neither did these natives satisfy me about Oolawambiloa, by which I had supposed the Darling was meant, but respecting which they still pointed westward. They, however, told Piper that the channel we had reached contained all the waters of “Wambool,” (the Macquarie), and “Callewatta” (the upper Darling), and I accordingly determined to trace it up, at least far enough to identify it with the latter. But I thought it right that we should endeavour first to recognise the junction with the Murray as seen by Captain Start. The natives said, it was not far off; and I accordingly encamped at two o’clock, that I might measure back to that important point.

Thirteen natives set out, as if to accompany us, for they begged that we would not go so fast. Three of them, however, soon set off at full speed, as if on a message; and the remaining ten fell behind us. We had then passed the camp of their gins, and I supposed at the time, that their only object was to see us beyond these females, Piper being with us. I pursued the river through a tortuous course until sunset, when I was obliged to quit it, and return to the camp by moonlight, without having seen anything of the Murray. I had, however, ascertained that the channel increased very much in width lower down, and when it was filled with the clay-coloured water of the flood then in the Murray, it certainly had the appearance of a river of importance.’

Encountering the natives

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1883
Thomas Cobden-Sanderson,
craftsman

‘Yesterday Annie and I walked together on the Embankment towards Westminster, I to the Long Gallery, she to the Abbey to wait till I had done. But the day was so lovely, the sun so bright, the river so attractive, that when I suggested that we should walk on the river-side of the road, she suddenly bethought herself of Walter Sickert at Chelsea, and should she not go by water to see him? I backed her up, and so at the next pier we parted; she went down the landing steps - the tide was very low - and I continued along the Embankment, looking back from time to time. Presently her steamer approached the pier, paused and came off again - I watched it approach, and a wave of a parasol drew my eyes to my darling. I waved my hand and hat, and smiled to her. [. . .]

Here there came a knock at the door, and my diary fell to the ground as I rushed to open it. It was Annie back from Chelsea. We embraced, and then she hurriedly began to tell me of a girl whom she had met on the steamer, red-haired, consumptive, Scotch, an envelope folder or sorter, returning from the Brompton Hospital where she was an out-patient. (She ought to be an in-patient, but could get no letter). [. . .] She got 1d. for 1,000 envelopes, and, when well, made 12s a week.’

Innumerable ripples; countless diamonds

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1889
Alice James,
sister to writer

‘I think that if I get into the habit of writing a bit about what happens, or rather doesn’t happen, I may lose a little of the sense of loneliness and desolation which abides with me. My circumstances allowing nothing but the ejaculation of one-syllabled reflections, a written monologue by that most interesting being, myself, may have its yet to be discovered consolations. I shall, at least, have it all my own way, and it may bring relief as an outlet to that geyser of emotions, sensations, speculations and reflections which ferments perpetually within my poor old carcass for its sins; so here goes - my first journal!’

Geyser of emotions

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1902
Victor Trump,
sportsman

‘Still raining leave for ground at 1 o’clock. Started match 5.15pm simply to get the crowd in a good humour. Match a draw. Saved us from a good hiding.’

Ran about all day

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1968
Dang Thuy Tram,
doctor

‘Today we had a major base evacuation to evade the enemy’s mopping-up operation. The whole clinic was moved, an infinitely exhausting undertaking. It’s heart-wrenching to see the wounded patients with beads of sweat running on their pale faces, struggling to walk step by step across narrow passes and up steep slopes. If someday we find ourselves living in the fragrant flowers of socialism, we should remember this scene forever, remember the sacrifice of the people who shed blood for the common cause. Who has brought this suffering upon us, comrades? They are the devils [US military] robbing our country.’

The crimes of war

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1953
Hermann Buhl,
mountaineer

‘Base camp.

. . . Peter, who is out hunting, comes back in the afternoon, asks about Kuno and then lays into me because everyone is doing exactly as he pleases. If we don’t want to obey the orders we should go on our own . . .

As Peter says nothing to me about going up, I ask him again. As my altimeter is broken and we only have one between four, as opposed to Base Camp where there are four altimeters, I would like to swap mine, also on the wishes of the others. After asking several times and being told we could manage with one, I eventually get Albert’s. I don’t even want to mention the map - although there are five of those at Base Camp.

As I set off Peter tells me not to be such an egoist. I don’t really understand and ask why. He finally says it’s because of the altimeter. It’s all too much for me so I give it back to him and leave. Peter calls me and then comes after me. Gives me the altimeter back and tells me not to be so childish, he had put himself out for me, and after all they were not dependent on me, and could manage without me, whereupon I leave. It takes me 50 minutes to get to Camp 1, it is snowing heavily again. Walter is waiting for me up there.’

Scenery fantastic - like home

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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, usually several every week. The blog has been publishing for over five years, and is the secondary source for the diary extracts in this online anthology.