And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

7 May

1906
Marie Curie,
physicist and chemist

‘My Pierre, I think of you without end, my head is bursting with it and my reason is troubled. I do not understand that I am to live henceforth without seeing you, without smiling at the sweet companion of my life.’

Without seeing you

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1910
Jean Sibelius,
composer

‘Took a ten-kilometre walk while composing, forged the musical metalwork and fashioned sonorities of silver.’

An inner confession

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1911
Dorothy Shakespear,
artist

‘To-night (and all yesterday) I have had a feeling you were “about” - Is it possible you are coming back to me? And yet the news is bad - For Mercy’s sake come back to me - I shall never rest until I have seen you again, & settled that one thing in my own mind. How can I rest?’

Are you a genius?

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1912
Raymond Priestley,
teacher and explorer

‘While still in bed this morning we heard the gale blowing hard outside, and when we got up we found we were snowed in as we have never been before. During the morning Dickason and I tunnelled through the drift and have managed thus to extend the roof of the shaft for about 6 feet in length. We found a regular hurricane outside, but no drift. Levick and Browning have butchered three of the Emperors, and Campbell and Abbott have therefore been cooking under great difficulties, for the galley is full of meat and carcasses, and there is a bad backdraught down the chimney. We had a lot of Emperor penguin meat and blubber in the hoosh to-night. The meat has been a great success, but the blubber has made the gravy pure oil, and has beaten some of us, though I am thankful to say not myself. The Emperor blubber itself has a very delicate flavour. As a treat this morning Campbell gave us each a small strip of Emperor’s breast done as a filet-de-boeuf, with a small piece of fat on top, and it was an excellent change after the unvarying stews we have had for months. I am reading my diary of last year in monthly parts for the amusement of the company. We all find an especial, though a tantalizing pleasure in the few descriptions of meals I have entered as part of our routine at Cape Adare. We still feel the monotonous diet, but are otherwise quite reconciled to our fate.

The cave is keeping quite warm at present, and of course the insulation is much improved by each wind with drift. All the sea ice beyond the bay has gone out again, and the Drygalski Ice Tongue and the moraines are hidden by dense drift, which is just missing us except in the strongest gusts. Dickason and I were both blown down once or twice when we were standing at the entrance to the shaft.’

Vice-chancellor Priestley

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1937
Lawrence Durrell,
writer

‘The cape opposite is bald; a wilderness of rock-thistle and melancholy asphodel - the drear sea-quill. It was on a ringing spring day that we discovered the house. The sky lay in a heroic blue arc as we came down the stone ladder. I remember N[ancy] saying distinctly to Theodore: ‘But the quietness alone makes it another country.’ We looked through the hanging screens of olive-branches on to the white sea wall with fishing-tackle drying on it. A neglected balcony. The floors were cold. Fowls clucked softly in the gloom where the great olive-press lay, waiting its season. A cypress stood motionless - as if at the gates of the underworld. We shivered and sat on the white rock to eat, looking down at our own faces in the motionless sea. You will think it strange to have come all the way from England to this fine Grecian promontory where our only company can be rock, air, sky - and all the elementals. In letters home N says we have been cultivating the tragic sense. There is no explanation. It is enough to record that everything is exactly as the fortune-teller said it would be. White house, white rock, friends, and a narrow style of loving: and perhaps a book which will grow out of these scraps, as from the rubbish of these old Venetian tombs the cypress cracks the slabs at last and rises up fresh and green.’

A book out of these scraps

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1937
Benjamin Britten,
composer

‘After a 9 o’clock breakfast Peter & I go over to Peter Burra’s house (Foxhold) to spend the day sorting out letters, photos & other personalities preparatory to the big clean up to take place soon. Peter Pears is a dear & a very sympathetic person. - tho’ I’ll admit I am not too keen on travelling on his motor bike! Catch 5.35 up to town, & I have to walk from Kilburn Park Station - but it’s all for the good of the cause & so far there’s no likelihood of an immediate settlement. Spend evening writing letters & sketch another song for Hedli.’

Benjamin Britten’s centenary

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1942
Rodney Foster,
soldier

‘I was out of bed just after 6 am when a plane roared over our roof and there were two explosions to the west. I saw a black snub-nosed Hun fly over my head. Another flew part to the north. Then I saw a third over Seabrook Road and saw a bomb leave its rack. This fell on the Hythe cricket pitch. The first bomb cut Sandling Park House in half, the other two fell in trees. The siren sounded after it was all over! The Huns did no machine gunning. I was so interested I forgot to tell my family to go to safety.’

Huns flew over Hythe

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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.