And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

22 November

1825
Walter Scott,
writer

‘Moore. I saw Moore (for the first time, I may say, this season). We had, indeed, met in public twenty years ago. There is a manly frankness with perfect ease and good breeding about him, which is delightful. Not the least touch of the poet or the pedant. [. . .] His countenance is plain, but the expression is very animated, especially in speaking or singing, so that it is far more interesting than the finest features could have rendered it. I was aware that Byron had often spoken, both in private society and in his journal, of Moore and myself in the same breath, and with the same sort of regard; so I was curious to see what there could be in common betwixt us, Moore having lived so much in the gay world, I in the country, and with people of business, and sometimes with politicians; Moore a scholar, I none; he a musician and artist, I without knowledge of a note; he a democrat, I an aristocrat; with many other points of difierence; besides his being an Irishman, I a Scotchman, and both tolerably national. Yet there is a point of resemblance, and a strong one. We are both good-humoured fellows, who rather seek to enjoy what is going forward than to maintain our dignity as Lions; and we have both seen the world too widely and too well not to condemn in our souls the imaginary consequence of literary people, who walk with their noses in the air, [. . .] He always enjoys the mot pour rire and so do I. It was a pity that nothing save the total destruction of Byron’s memoirs would satisfy his executors; but there was a reason. [. . .] We went to the theatre together, and the house being luckily a good one, received Thomas Moore with rapture. I could have hugged them, for it paid back the debt of the kind reception I met with in Ireland.’

Doomed to sing

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1834
Søren Kierkegaard,
philosopher

‘The difference between an author who picks up his material everywhere but does not work it up into an organic whole and one who does that is, it seems to me, like the difference between mock turtle and real turtle. The meat from some parts of the real turtle tastes like veal, from other parts like chicken, but it is all together in one organism. All these various kinds of meat are found in mock turtle, but that which binds the separate parts is a sauce, which still is often more nourishing than the jargon which takes its place in a lot of writing.’

Mock and real turtles

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1907
Robert Charles Benchley,
writer and actor

‘Played football in the moonlight until nearly 11 o’clock. Came back to the room and fooled around.’

I hope not a ‘what it was’

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1911
Roger Casement,
diplomat

‘At Leticia since 11.30 p.m. Left only at 7.30 a.m. taking up Peruvian officer and family and enormous mass of rubbish of furniture including 5 jerrys! Cold is again very bad. Left letters to Tom, Gallwey, O’Reilly and Bernardino. . . Clock on church is painted strip of canvas always at 11.45 a.m.! . . . Met “Elisa” and got papers - including a “Truth” with part of Paredes’ summing up. José came and asked me for photo in Iquitos - looking lovely and then at 8.30 for cigarette papers and later I called and pulled mine and asked for water. Also with Pilot’s boy.’

Casement’s black reputation

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1918
Alex Sabine,
writer

‘At the tea table of a socially humble friend’s, with the samovar hospitably whispering and sizzling, I was introduced to a friend of the family, a Soviet official, pale from rheumatism, but good-looking and well built, apparently a mechanic by profession. When the conversation turned to the treatment of the bourgeoisie by the new regime, my new acquaintance spoke firmly in support of a statement of his: “I by no means regret shooting and killing my fourteen men, not in the least.” My friend, giving him a quiet look, explained: “Of course, you only saw to their being executed,” and nicely shifted the conversation to another topic. My friend is a perfectly respectable man, but his company - sumptuously treated considering the times - was a revelation to me.’

Jailed for making soap

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1990
Tony Benn,
politician

‘I was in the middle of an interview about the war in the Gulf for ‘Dispatches’ on Channel 4 when my secretary burst in to say Margaret Thatcher has resigned. Absolutely dazzling news, and it was quite impossible to keep my mind on the interview after that. So people have been to her and told her that she can’t win. She called the Cabinet together this morning and told them. But the motion of censure is still taking place this afternoon.

To the House, which was in turmoil. We had the censure debate, and Kinnock’s speech was flamboyant and insubstantial. When he was cross-examined about the European currency he simply couldn’t answer. Thatcher was brilliant. She always has her ideology to fall back on; she rolled off statistics, looked happy and joked.’

Thatcher gives a cuddle

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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.