And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

28 November

Henry Pelham-Clinton,

‘It is asserted with confidence that Lord Grey is out of favour with the King, that at last H.M. Sees through his Schemes & that the proclamation against the Unions was by the King’s Special desire - The King is Said to be inclined to adopt a different course & positively to refuse to make more Peers - if so Lord Grey & Co. must go - Negociations are on foot with Lords Harrowby & Wharncliffe & the report is that they approve of the new reform Bill.’

My courage failed


Andrew Peterson,

‘Borrowed Jonas Broberg’s oxen to haul logs for the fence on the other side of the maples. Alfred was here with his oxen and hauled logs. He owed me 2 1/2 days work. One day I counted off for the oxen and the half-day I counted off for the sinkers he made for the seine and the mending of the net. In the evening Nilsson and I made up our account for the last period of boarding and the 6 1/2 days of work I had done and the boards I had given that should count off when I built his cow shed because of the board I had when I built mine.’

The Swedish emigrant


Henry J. Heinz,

‘John Heinz had a lawsuit about an old horse today and had to pay costs. He is learning that courts don’t always give justice.’

Caught in the mustard mill


Paul Léautaud,

‘Spent the day copying out some Stendhal letters for the Pages Choisies. Comforting hours. In that respect I haven’t changed. What tone, what style, what spontaneity in those letters, what wit, what finesse! My ideas, my mental vivaciousness, are awakened, my inner self thaws, comes to life.

Went to the Mercure. Talked to Jean de Gourmont about his literary column in which he hands out bouquets so freely. It’s hopeless. On all sides indifference and laziness. It’s astonishing the fear people have nowadays of speaking their minds. Newspapers and reviews, even the most daring, are as mild as the academicians. Some are prompted by self-interest, some by fear, some by friendship. Everyone is drenched in mutual eulogies, and the lowest of the low are hailed as geniuses. Great mediocrity, great poverty of spirit, great stupidity at the bottom of it all.

I have always loved, I only love, those who go too far, the wild men, the souls that have escaped the rut. A Byron, a Stendhal, a Chateaubriand, a Poe, a Baudelaire. Those âmes en marge, with which my own feels so closely bound, help me to rise above the miserable life of every day, the miserable days so like their predecessors, to rise above them, transcend them, forget them.’

So I held my tongue


Ivan Chistyakov,

‘It’s cold outside, it’s cold inside, and it’s cold and cheerless inside me. How can you do a job properly if you have no interest in it and no wish to do it? And why is that? Because you don’t have the bare necessities of life and culture. The top brass don’t even talk about these things. Today we are faced with the fact that there is no firewood. I have to order people about. I don’t need all this. Why does it always turn out this way?

My hands are stiff with cold. Why is no one looking after us commanders? What do all the brave words amount to? If we had even a hundredth of what Voroshilov promised here, on the railway, we would at least have a little hope. All the talk is of The Second Five-Year Plan, Maxim Gorky, Klim Voroshilov. The USSR has unparalleled aeroplanes, but here we don’t have even the bare minimum. Oh, hell! The only consolation is that it was even worse at the front. Some comfort! I sleep under two blankets, a leather coat and a sheepskin jacket.

I just can’t find my place here in the Baikal-Amur Mainline system, probably because it doesn’t exist. It’s different for peasants. They get something out of it, learn new tricks, find out things they didn’t know. All I’m going to learn here is how to be a slob, not give a damn, and not get caught.’

The general emptiness


Wilhelm Reich,


Karl Frank just told me that Mildred Brady’s husband is a communist, and Wertham also. This miserable pack of political hounds should be driven out by force.’

The existence of orgonity


Andrew Russel (Drew) Pearson,

‘Parnell Thomas’s trial started this morning. Looking at him in the courtroom, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. I can’t relish helping to send a man to jail. Nevertheless, when I figure all the times Thomas has sent other people to jail and all the instances when he has kept men away from combat duty in return for money in his own pocket, to say nothing of salary kickbacks, perhaps I shouldn’t be too sorry.’

Salty and petulant


Alex Babine,

‘A sudden search of guests in one of the new socialist cafes produced an unexpected result. One customer had a large amount of small change that is so scarce nowadays; another had a large sum of money in Astrakhan and Samara local currencies.’

Jailed for making soap


Kenneth Williams,
actor and writer

‘Fred Treves came to tea and there was a furious argument - spiritual versus rational. Hell! Roman Catholicism from the foundation by Peter, Christ’s meeting with John the Baptist, Individual Revelations - Church Antipathy to, etc. etc., the end. I was angry about getting worked up as I always do when discussing organised religion. I hate the aggressiveness which automatically follows its assumption of power.’

Carry on carping


Richard Crossman,

‘At eight o’clock I had to be off to Leicester for one of my visitations, from nine fifteen in the morning till four o’clock in the afternoon. They have become quite a routine for me now and I had my long discussions on the usual subjects, multi-occupation, the new Government subsidies, land policy. The interesting thing at Leicester, I thought, was the admirable way they are trying to deal with the problem of the people who grow elderly on their huge housing estates and then under-occupy their three-room council houses. Here they are taking a certain number of the houses in each area and turning them into flats by the most ingenious method of putting one old person upstairs and one downstairs in each house. They were also putting the old people’s bungalows next door to old people’s homes so those in the bungalows could have meals if they wanted in the old people’s homes. They all seemed to me humane and civilized schemes.’

My room is like a padded cell


Václav Havel,

‘For the whole of September and October I never stopped. Yet what did I actually do? I visited several European countries, had a lot of meetings and visits and discussions, and made countless speeches - and all at a time of year when I’m usually under the weather. I’m quite surprised that I survived it all without any damage to my health. I’m at Hradecek once more, but there’s a lot of snow here now and the trees are beautifully cloaked in white. I’m really like a hermit here. (Hradecek is off by itself and my only neighbor is my friend Andrej Krob, who has a cottage nearby, but he’s not there now.) Yesterday I watched a thriller on television and then I realized that for the first time in my life I felt afraid here. The very thought that I might suddenly glimpse the movement of a human shadow gave me goose bumps and heart palpitations. I stopped getting the newspapers a while ago, and my news comes from television. I read the papers only when I happen across one. The last time that happened was several days ago on the plane from Budapest, when I discovered I was the subject of a scandal. The Czech media are up in arms because I have apparently supported our new prime minister. The whole thing obviously started a while ago, when he invited me for coffee, and as we were leaving we were waylaid by a journalist who asked me how I’d have gotten along with the current prime minister if I were still president. I said I thought we’d hit it off. By that I meant that I would not have been having constant public squabbles with the prime minister over how to interpret the constitution, as our current president does. I should have expressed myself more precisely or concretely, but still, why there should have been a controversy or even a scandal over this, I have no idea. But obviously I can’t understand everything.’

Václav Havel as diarist


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And so made significant . . .
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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.