And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

27 November

1703
John Evelyn,
writer

The effects of the hurricane and tempest of wind, rain, and lightning, through all the nation, especially London, were very dismal. Many houses demolished, and people killed. As to my own losses, the subversion of woods and timber, both ornamental and valuable, through my whole estate, and about my house the woods crowning the garden mount, the growing along the park meadow, the damage to my own dwelling, farms, and outhouses, is almost tragical, not to be paralleled, with anything happening in our age. I am not able to describe it; but submit to the pleasure of Almighty God.

A most excellent person

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1713
Thomas Hearne,
antiquary

‘Mr. Tompion of London, one of the most eminent persons for making clocks and watches, that have been produced in the last age, dyed last week. Indeed he was the most famous, and the most skillfull person at this art in the whole world, and first of all brought watches to any thing of perfection. He was originally a blacksmith, but a gentleman imploying him to mend his clock, he did it extraordinary well, and told the gentleman that he believed he could make such another himself. Accordingly he did so, and this was his first beginning, he living then in Buckinghamshire. He afterwards got a great name, lived in London, was acquainted with the famous Dr. Hooke, grew rich, and lived to a great age. He had a strange working head, and was well seen in mathematicks.’

Remarks and collections

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1901
Korney Chukovsky,
writer

‘Novosti has published a long feuilleton of mine, “A Perennial Issue” signed Kornei Chukovsky. The editors identify me as “a young journalist with paradoxical but highly interesting opinions.” I feel not the slightest elation. My soul is empty. I can’t squeeze a line out of myself.’

Light, motley, whimsical

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1926
Aldo Leopold,
ecologist

‘Arrived Van Buren 9 a.m. and hit the river at 10:30. A fine sunny morning. The river is very fast for a mile or so below town, then calms down somewhat. About noon we had our first excitement when 30 mallards came up the river and began to circle the timber a hundred yards to our left, settling down in a little backwater. We sneaked them, only I going all the way. I got within 30 yards but got only one on the rise; alibi: dark background and brush. They circled and came over us. Everybody missed; alibi: too far. Just as we were leaving five came back, but seeing our boat they went on. We landed again to wait when eight got out unexpectedly below us, one big drake passing within easy range of Carl and me. Alibi: none. We named this Bungle Bay.’

The sweetest fish ever eaten

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1934
Frances Stevenson,
secretary

‘Had a marvellous morning hunting for holly with D. in the woods behind Old Bam. It was a divinely beautiful day, the little mauve clouds in a sunny blue sky reminding one of early spring rather than late November. But the woods were autumnal, the larches dropping gold from their boughs, the birches looking more ethereal than ever in their slender bareness, the hollies almost vulgar in their wealth of red berries. D. knew exactly where to seek for the holly treasure: he seemed to have marked down at some time or other every holly tree on the estate, & made for them unerringly. It is the same instinct which made him when a boy mark down wild cherry trees in the woods at Llanystumdwy, or a fern in the river bank, & then come back to it again & again & watch & note its progress. I think these rambles through the woods for a definite treasure take him back to his childhood: in fact, he is the boy D. again, with all the eagerness and enjoyment of boyhood.

This afternoon he went through the speech with me that he intends to make in the House of Commons tomorrow, on defence. He is very nervous. He says it is a speech which will please neither one side nor the other, but I think it is a very good one. It all depends on his mood & how he will deliver it. He has not been feeling very well the last day or two.’

We had great fun

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1935
Ivan Chistyakov,
soldier

‘This is how we live: in a cramped room furnished with a trestle bed and straw mattress, a regulation issue blanket, a table with only three out of four legs and a creaky stool with nails you have to hammer back in every day with a brick. A paraffin lamp with a broken glass chimney and lampshade made of newspaper. A shelf made from a plank covered with newspaper. Walls partly bare, partly papered with cement sacks. Sand trickles down from the ceiling and there are chinks in the window frames, door, and gaps in the walls. There’s a wood-burning stove, which, while lit, keeps one side of you warm. The side facing towards the stove is like the South Pole, the side facing away from it is like the North Pole. The amount of wood we burn would make a normal room as warm as a bathhouse, but ours is colder than a changing room.

Will they find me incompetent, not up to the job. and kick me out? Why should I be sacrificed like so many others? You become stultified, primitive, you turn into a bully and so on. You don’t feel you’re developing, either as a commander or a human being. You just get on with it.’

The general emptiness

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1938
Victor Klemperer,
linguist

‘On the morning of the 11th two policemen accompanied by a ‘resident of Dölzschen’. Did I have any weapons? Certainly my sabre, perhaps even my bayonet as a war memento, but I wouldn’t know where. We have to help you find it. The house was searched for hours. At the beginning Eva made the mistake of quite innocently telling one of the policemen he should not go through the clean linen cupboard without washing his hands. The man, considerably affronted, could hardly be calmed down. A second, younger policeman was more friendly, the civilian was the worst. Pigsty etc.. We said we had been without domestic help for months, many things were dusty and still unpacked. They rummaged through everything, chests and wooden constructions Eva had made were broken open with an axe. The sabre was found in a suitcase in the attic, the bayonet was not found. Among the books they found a copy of the Sozialistische Monatshefte (Socialist Monthly Magazine - an SPD theoretical journal) [. . .] this was also confiscated. At one point when Eva wanted to fetch one of her tools, the young policeman ran after her; the older one called out: You are making us suspicious, you are making your situation worse. At about one o’clock the civilian and the older policeman left the house, the young one remained and took a statement. He was good-natured and courteous, I had the feeling he himself found the thing embarrassing. In addition he complained about an upset stomach and we offered him a schnapps, which he declined. Then the three of them appeared to hold a conference in the garden. The young policeman returned: You must dress and come to the court building at Münchner Platz with me. There’s nothing to fear, you will probably(!) be back 

by evening. I asked whether I was now under arrest. His reply was good-natured and noncommittal, it was only a war memento after all, I would probably be released right away. I was allowed to shave (with the door half open), I slipped Eva some money, and we made our way down to the tramcar. I was allowed to walk through the park alone while the policeman wheeled his bicycle at a distance behind me. We got on to the platform of the number 16, and got off at Münchner Platz; the policeman kindly covered up the fact that I was being taken into custody. A wing in the court building: Public Prosecutor. A room with clerks and policemen. Sit down. The policeman had to copy the statement. He took me to a room with a typewriter. He led me back to the first room. I sat there apathetically. The policeman said: Perhaps you’ll even be home in time for afternoon coffee. A clerk said: The Public Prosecutor’s Office makes the decision. The policeman disappeared, I continued to sit there apathetically. Then someone called: Take the man to relieve himself, and someone took me to the lavatory. Then: To Room X. There: This is the new committals room! More waiting. After a while a young man with a Party badge appeared, evidently the examining magistrate. You are Professor Klemperer? You can go. But first of all a certificate of discharge has to be made out, otherwise the police in Freital will think you have escaped and arrest you again. He returned immediately, he had telephoned, I could go. At the exit of the wing, by the first room into which I had been led, a clerk rushed towards me: Where do you think you’re going? I said: Home, and calmly stood there. They telephoned, to verify that I had been released. The examining magistrate had also replied to my enquiry, that the matter was not being passed on to the Public Prosecutor. At four o’clock I was on the street again with the curious feeling, free - but for how long? Since then we have both been unceasingly tormented by the question, go or stay? To go too early, to stay too late? To go where we have nothing, to remain in this corruption? We are constantly trying to shed all subjective feelings of disgust, of injured pride, of mood and only weigh up the concrete facts of the situation. In the end we shall literally be able to throw dice for pro and contra. Our first response to events was to think it absolutely necessary to leave and we started making preparations and enquiries. On Sunday, 12th November, the day after my arrest, I wrote urgent SOS letters to Frau Schaps and Georg. The short letter to Georg began: With a heavy heart, in a quite altered situation, pushed right to the edge, no details: Can you stand surety for my wife and myself, can you help the two of us over there for a couple of months? By my own efforts I would surely find some post as a teacher or in an office. I telephoned the Arons - the husband had spoken to me on Bismarckplatz on the day of the Munich Agreement. Herr Aron was not at home, Frau Aron would receive me at eight in the evening. I drove there: a wealthy villa in Bernhardstrasse. I learned that he and very many others with him had been arrested and taken away; at present we still don’t know whether they are in the camp at Weimar or are working on the fortifications in the west as convicts and hostages.’

Klemperer collecting life

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1947
Wilhelm Reich,
doctor

‘I wonder about the Midwest of the U.S.A. Different human beings?

Should I step into the open, into the masses?

Am I sitting like a crab on its hind legs? Should I wait for invitations to lecture or arrange them myself? West Coast wanted lectures. There is this deadly deadlock between people’s wanting and not being capable of doing.

I must wait until they come to me, socially, and not only sexologically.’

The existence of orgnity

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1958
Christopher Isherwood,
writer

‘What I chiefly have to give thanks for, this Thanksgiving, is that I’m still alive. The night before yesterday, bored after a long, long evening [. . ,] and somewhat though not really drunk, I fell asleep at the wheel driving home and ran smash into a parked car. I guess I was knocked out. I remember nothing - until there was this very furious man, the owner of the parked car, yelling at me that he’d like to bash me to pulp - ‘And I’d do it too,’ he said, ‘if you hadn’t got blood on your face already.’ I had, as a matter of fact, hit the steering wheel, which was twisted up, cut myself between the eyes, bruised both eyes, maybe broken my nose, cut one knee and maybe hurt some ribs. The furious man [. . .] was eagerly expecting my arrest on a drunk, driving charge. But the police were very nice and sent me home in a taxi after I’d been fixed up at an emergency dressing station.

The other think to be thankful for is that Don and I have finished the rough draft of our play The Monsters, also the day before yesterday. We are cautiously starting the rewrite.

Don has hit a new high of sweetness. He is very happy about the play.’

Isherwood giving thanks

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1964
Richard Crossman,
politician

‘I got to the Ministry fresh and hearty and spent the day on office meetings, staff meetings, progress meetings, dealing with the routine of the Private Office as well. They seem to have a better idea of what my policy is and I have got them to agree to an elaborate programme of informal consultations and discussions on the content of the Rent Bill. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday will be totally allocated to discussions in two groups, one headed by myself and Arnold Goodman, and the other headed by Jim MacColl and Donnison. These two groups will study one paper prepared by the Department. I am really pleased I have got this fixed.

I caught the train to Coventry on Friday evening where I had to make the first speech I had ever made in my life at a public dinner. I suppose I provided what was required. Then I motored home to find Anne lying upstairs in bed listening to the new B.B.C. programme which has now been put on instead of TW3, and finding how vacuous it was.’

My room is like a padded cell

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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 Review, hosted by Blogger, publishes magazine-style articles on diaries and diarists, several times a week. Now over ten years old, The Diary Review is the secondary source for the extracts in this online anthology.