And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

5 May

1609
James Melville,
teacher

‘The Commissiouneris foirsaid conveinit in the morneing, at the place befoir nameit; and, efter prayer, the Moderator propounit that ane on aither syde sould be nameit and appoyntit to reassoun the first questioun. Mr Patrick Galloway, being deeyrit to speik, answerit, that it wes most convenient to reassoun the matter be wrytt: First, For eschewing of jealousie, idle, and hait speiches, superfluous digressiounes, and impertinent discourses, quhairby Brither mycht be irritat, and tyme unprofitabilly spent: 2dly, For avoyding different reportis to be maid be the Brither of different judgmentis efter the Conference endit: And, thairfoir, he desirit the uthir pairtie, that they would schortlie and cleirly sett downe thair oppinioune in Articles, tuiching that matter, and Reassounes quhairby they would confirme the same; promiseing that the said Oppiniounes and Reassounes sould be plainelie and brotherlie answerit, so succinctlie as wes possibill to be concivit and expressit be thame in wrytt. Maney thingis wer objectit againes that answer and offer; but all the objectiounes wer answerit. And so, the Ministeres, standing constantlie to their resolutioune, the uthir partic desirit that they mycht advyse among thamselff annent the premisses: Unto the quhilk desyre the Ministeres aggrieit, and removit thame selffis; and the uther partie, with his Majestie’s Commissiouner, sat still.’

Libertie of the kirk

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1601
Margaret Hoby,
heiress

‘After praers I went to the church, wher I hard a sermon: after, I Came home and hard Mr Rhodes read: after diner I went abroad, and when I was come home I dressed some sore: after, I went to see a calfe at Munckmans, which had: 2: great heades, 4 eares, and had to ether head a throte pipe besides: the heades had long heares like brisels about the mouths, such as n’other Cowe hath: the hinder legges had no parting from the rumpe, but grewe backward, and were no longer but from the first Ioynte: also the backe bone was parted about the midest bicke, and a rowne howle was in the midest into the bodie of the Calfe: but one would haue thought that haue comed of strocke it might gett in the Cowes bely: after this I Came in to priuat medetation and praier.’

After private prayers

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1803
Thomas De Quincey,
writer

‘Last night I imaged to myself the heroine of the novel dying on an island of a lake, the chamber-windows (opening on a lawn) set wide open - and the sweet blooming roses breathing yr odours on her dying senses.[. . .]

Last night too I image myself looking through a glass. “What do you see?” I see a man in the dim and shadowy perspective and (as it were) in a dream. He passes along in silence, and the hues of sorrow appear on his countenance. Who is he? A man darkly wonderful - above the beings of this world; but whether that shadow of him, which you saw, be ye shadow of a man long since passed away or of one yet hid in futurity, I may not tell you.’

My imagination flies

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1817
Allan Cunningham,
botanist and explorer

‘We departed from our last encampment about 9 o’clock, and having crossed a small creek which intersected our course, we ascended the gentle rising hill which I had visited yesterday. The view even on this eminence being much confined, Mr. Oxley took bearings of the most remarkable ranges of hills around it at a distance from the top of a lofty Callitris. Descending to the flats we were again deceived by a long chain of ponds or lagoons which we fell in with, but perceiving our mistake we crossed it in a dry situation and came to the banks of the Lachlan. Such was the confusion created by this mistake that we were all scattered and divided and taking different courses. Our people in the boats fired guns to inform us of their situation.

Calling to one another we were answered by strange voices, which left us in no doubt of natives being near us. It was a great point we should all join again, which at length we did, after some of us had passed over several miles on a cross-course, the labour of which might have been saved. Our people came up with seven or eight of the natives, who were clothed with mantles of skin reddened with a pigment from the river. There appeared not the most distant symptoms of hostility among them! They evidently had seen a horse before, and could pronounce some words of English, such as bread, and they had every appearance of having been with those at the Lachlan Depôt, from which we are now 54 miles west. From the columns of smoke ascending from the trees to which these harmless beings were advancing there is no doubt of their encampment being there situated, and it might be inferred that their gins or wives were there, from their evident objection to our people attempting to accompany them to their fires. The delay and loss of time occasioned by the above adventure had allowed our boatmen to work themselves through all the numerous windings of this intricate river and overtake us.

We all started again in a body, travelling immediately on the river bank about 4 miles, when we were stopped by a deep muddy creek connecting the river with the chain of ponds above alluded to. We passed this gully with considerable difficulty, being obliged to unload our horses. Accompanied by Mr. Oxley I went to an extensive open plain about half a mile N.W. of our course, which we found of very considerable extent. It is a flat that receives the inundations of the Lachlan; it is of a light loamy soil and at this time very damp and slimy, in consequence of the recent rain.

This plain, which is clear of timber and is skirted by Acacia pendula we have called Solway Flats, from its slight similarity to a place of that name in North Britain.’

In search of water

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1830
Anne Chalmers,
young woman

‘Wednesday, the 5th of May, is my birthday. I have reached a most venerable antiquity. Papa, Mamma, and I walked to Westminster Abbey and were conducted over it by the guide. We saw the tombs of many of the kings, nobles, and poets of former days, and wax figures of Charles II, a Duke of Buckingham, Queen Elizabeth, William and Mary, Ann and Nelson (who is like life). Elizabeth has a most disagreeable expression of countenance. Mary and Ann are good-looking. Among other tombs we saw that of Mary Queen of Scots. Her figure is represented in a recumbent posture on it. We also saw the monuments of Edward I, Henry III, Richard II and his queen, the two princes who were murdered in the Tower, Milton, Dryden, Chaucer, Watts, Horner, etc. In one of the apartments stand the chairs on which the King and Queen sit when they are crowned. To that of the King is fixed the Scotch stone on which the Kings of Scotland were once crowned before it was taken from Scone by Edward I. The architecture of this Abbey is splendid. We were in the chapel in which Divine service is performed twice every day. A genuine Scotchman who had been making the round of the Abbey and making remarks with great simplicity on what he saw, here inquired earnestly, ‘But whaur’s the pulpit; whaur does the minister and the precentor sit?’ After looking round the room he was satisfied as to the position of the pulpit. After leaving Westminster we walked through St James’s Park and sat down by the pond in the centre of it, paying a penny each for the refreshment of chairs. The road between St James’s Park and the Green Park resembles the Meadows very much. We were a little fatigued by our excursion, and sat quietly for the rest of the day in our lodgings, to which we began to get somewhat reconciled and accustomed.

In the evening Mr Irving and Mr Nisbet called. When Mr I. was told it was my birthday, he said, ‘Dear child, may it come often.’ He is grieved about the illness of his little dear child! ‘There was nothing extravagant about his appearance. He seems to believe in Mary Campbell’s [a speaker of tongues] miraculous gifts.’

Anne Chalmers in London

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1865
Eliza Frances Andrew,
writer

‘It has come at last - what we have been dreading and expecting so long - what has caused so many panics and false alarms - but it is no false alarm this time; the Yankees are actually in Washington. Before we were out of bed a courier came in with news that Kirke - name of ill omen - was only seven miles from town, plundering and devastating the country. Father hid the silver and what little coin he had in the house, but no other precautions were taken. They have cried “wolf” so often that we didn’t pay much attention to it, and besides, what could we do, anyway? After dinner we all went to our rooms as usual, and I sat down to write. Presently some one knocked at my door and said: “The Yankees have come, and are camped in Will Pope’s grove.” I paid no attention and went on quietly with my writing. Later, I dressed and went down to the library, where Dr Cromwell was waiting for me, and asked me to go with him to call on Annie Pope. We found the streets deserted; not a soldier, not a straggler did we see. The silence of death reigned where a few hours ago all was stir and bustle - and it is the death of our liberty. After the excitement of the last few days, the stillness was painful, oppressive. I thought of Chateaubriand’s famous passage: “Lorsque dans le silence de l’abjection” &c. News of the odious arrival seems to have spread like a secret pestilence through the country, and travelers avoid the tainted spot. I suppose the returning soldiers flank us, for I have seen none on the streets to-day, and none have called at our house. The troops that are here came from Athens. There are about sixty-five white men, and fifteen negroes, under the command of a Major Wilcox. They say that they come for peace, to protect us from our own lawless cavalry - to protect us, indeed! with their negro troops, runaways from our own plantations! I would rather be skinned and eaten by wild beasts than beholden to them for such protection. As they were marching through town, a big buck negro leading a raw-boned jade is said to have made a conspicuous figure in the procession. Respectable people were shut up in their houses, but the little street urchins immediately began to sing, when they saw the big black Sancho and his Rosinante:

“Yankee Doodle went to town and stole a little pony; He stuck a feather in his crown and called him Macaroni.”

They followed the Yanks nearly to their camping ground at the Mineral Spring, singing and jeering at the negroes, and strange to say, the Yankees did not offer to molest them. I have not laid eyes on one of the creatures myself, and they say they do not intend to come into the town unless to put down disturbances - the sweet, peaceful lambs! They never sacked Columbia; they never burnt Atlanta; they never left a black trail of ruin and desolation through the whole length of our dear old Georgia! No, not they! I wonder how long this sugar and honey policy is to continue. They deceive no one with their Puritanical hypocrisy, bringing our own runaway negroes here to protect us. Next thing they will have a negro garrison in the town for our benefit. Their odious old flag has not yet been raised in the village, and I pray God they will have the grace to spare us that insult, at least until Johnston’s army has all passed through. The soldiers will soon return to their old route of travel, and there is no telling what our boys might be tempted to do at the sight of that emblem of tyranny on the old courthouse steeple, where once floated the “lone star banner” that Cora and I made with our own hands - the first rebel flag that was ever raised in Washington. Henry brought us the cloth, and we made it on the sly in Cora’s room at night, hustling it under the bed, if a footstep came near, for fear father or mother might catch us and put a stop to our work. It would break my heart to see the emblem of our slavery floating in its place. Our old liberty pole is gone. Some of the Irvin Artillery went one night before the Yankees came, and cut it down and carried it off. It was a sad night’s work, but there was no other way to save it from desecration.’

Their negro troops

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1885
Louis David Riel,
politician

‘My wife encompasses my life. My nation encompasses my way of life. My army, the army which God has given me, encompasses the life I lead. My family has no other life than mine. The Church follows my example and is good to the same extent that I am good.

Be careful, watch out. The white man and the Orangeman want to trick you. The trap is wide open. It is set, do not rush into it.

For from another side, I see something stupendous coming: a great blow. Stay back, keep together. Let us be ready.’

Canada’s rebel hero

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1936
Cesare Pavese,
writer

‘Living is like working out a long addition sum, and if you make a mistake in the first two totals you will never find the right answer. It means involving oneself in a complicated chain of circumstances.’

I won’t write any more

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1937
Lawrence Durrell,
writer

‘The books have arrived by water. Confusion, adjectives, smoke, and the deafening pumping of wheezy Diesel engine. Then the caique staggered off in the direction of St Stephano and the Forty Saints, where the crew will gorge themselves on melons and fall asleep in their coarse woollen vests, one of top of the other, like a litter of cats, under the ikon of St Spiradion of Holy Memory. We are depending on this daily caique for our provisions.’

A book out of these scraps

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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.

For any other use of these diary extracts other than browsing please refer to the original sources.

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, 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.