And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

10 November

1807
Harman Blennerhassett,
lawyer and aristocrat

‘Soon after breakfast visited Burr and Pollock. Burr has again opened an audience chamber, which is much occupied. Altho’ I found 2 or 3 friends with him at breakfast; he was called out the moment he had breakfasted, and was absent about 1 3/4 hour; during which interval Mr Pollock gave me his company. [. . .] With respect to Burr, whatever may have been the ground of his present intimacy with Mr P. I can venture to affirm, it has already been abused, on the part of the former, altho’ the latter as yet, is evidently unaware of it. Upon B’s return P. withdrew, and I entered upon the objects of my visit. After informing Burr that Martin was resolved to appear for us at Chilicothe, he seemed all surprise and nothing could be more natural than the collision of such generosity with his own ingratitude. For he had fled fr Balt. without waiting even to thank his friend for the long and various services he had rendered him. [. . .]

This business being thus dispatched I next solicited him on the subject of his finances, on which indeed, he had partly anticipated me, by inquiring “what were my prospects thro’ my friends, the Lewises?” I informed him I had no expectations in that quarter, and shd absolutely starve whilst I was possessed of such splendid hopes in Europe if I was not relieved in the mean time. He regretted much the absence fr. town, of 2 persons with whom he expected to do something; but he had he said, negotiations on foot, the success of which he cd not answer for, but shd know in 2 or 3 days. [. . .]

by the bye, it is remarkable that many persons of penetration and intelligence who have indulged an eager interest in investigating every thing during the last year, relating to Burr, within the reach of their own inquiries, should have permitted that irredeemable passage of Alston’s letter imputing Burr a design to deprive his infant grandson of his patrimony.’

Breaking with Burr

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1853
Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff,
politician

‘Mr. Peacock talked to me to-day at much length about Jeremy Bentham, with whom he had been extremely intimate - dining with him tete a tete once a week for years together. He mentioned, amongst other things, that when experiments were being made with Mr. Bentham’s body after his death, Mr. James Mill had one day come into his (Mr. Peacock’s) room at the India House and told him that there had exuded from Mr. Bentham’s head a kind of oil, which was almost unfreezable, and which he conceived might be used for the oiling of chronometers which were going into high latitudes. “The less you say about that, Mill,” said Peacock, “the better it will be for you; because if the fact once becomes known, just as we see now in the newspapers advertisements to the effect that a fine bear is to be killed for his grease, we shall be having advertisements to the effect that a fine philosopher is to be killed for his oil.” ’

Good-natured books

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1916
Maurice Hankey,
civil servant

‘. . . At 11.30 yet another War Ctee. These have been really dreadful [meetings] . . . Yesterday the P.M. was writing answers to Parliamentary questions all the time, with the result that the discussion was never kept to the point. . . Today Ll. G. came up with an undigested and stupid proposal for a “Shipping Dictator” which wasted the whole meeting. Yet the subjects for discussion are absolutely vital, involving no less than our economic power to continue the war next year . . . I have always foreseen that we should be strangled by our armies, and it is actually happening. Supplies short, prices high and no shipping to be got. There are only two solutions - either to reduce the size of the army or to introduce foreign labour, and the Govt, won’t adopt either . . . Thus and thus is the British Empire governed at a critical stage of the war. I have done all I can to get meetings; to crystallize woolly discussions into clear-cut decisions, and to promote concord - but the task is a Herculean one!’

Dreadful meetings

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1935
Ivan Chistyakov,
soldier

‘This life is nomadic, cold, transient, disordered. We are getting used to just hoping for the best. That wheezing accordion underscores the general emptiness. The cold click of a rifle bolt. Wind outside the window. Dreams and drifting snow. Accordion wailing, feet beating time. There’s heat from the stove, but as soon as it warms up one side, the other gets cold. A fleeting thought: am I really going to have to put up with this for long? Is life just one perpetual shambles? Why? I want to let everything go hang and just float downstream, but I’d probably get banged up myself. Come on, head, think of something and I’ll buy you a cap!

Alas, the days here are filled with longing and anger, sorrow and shame. Your work is slapdash and you just hope for good luck. It’s degrading. Nobody thinks of us as people; they think of us as platoon commanders and that’s it. Periodically someone calls you a representative of the USSR government. I ‘sadly look back at the life I have lived’ [a line from a popular ballad Sleigh Bells], and kick myself yet again. I have to get out of this place! Think of something, wise up!’

The general emptiness

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1989
Anatoly Chernyaev,
historian and political aide

‘The Berlin Wall has collapsed. This entire era in the history of the socialist system is over. . . Today we received messages about the ‘retirement’ of Deng Xiaopeng and [Bulgarian leader Todor] Zhivkov. Only our ‘best friends’ Castro, Ceaucescu, [and] Kim Il Sung are still around - people who hate our guts. But the main thing is the GDR, the Berlin Wall. For it has to do not only with ‘socialism’, but with the shift in the world balance of forces. This is the end of Yalta . . . the Stalinist legacy and ‘the defeat of Hitlerite Germany’. That is what Gorbachev has done. And he has indeed turned out to be a great leader. He has sensed the pace of history and helped history to find a natural channel.’

The fall of the Wall

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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, 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.