And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

29 November

Phebe Orvis,

‘Attended school this forenoon not able to compose. Drew a short extract. returned to Dr.’s. distracted with the sick headache together with the toothache not able to get up[.] after puking and taking Essence felt more relieved[.] Esq Hoyt, Miss Sarah Matticke of Montpelier. Miss Delia Hoyt called this eve to see me, hearing that I was out of health. after soaking my feet and taking more essence, retired.’

An extraordinary ordinary woman



Henry Edward Fox, diplomat

‘30 Old Steyne, Brighton. I was called a little after seven and got up immediately. The morning was foggy, damp and cold. I left London before 9 and stopped to hear how Miss Vernon had passed the night at Little Holland House. I was happy to find that the new medicine and a blister had in some measure relieved her and given her a few hours’ sleep. I cannot, however, help apprehending that all ultimate hopes of her recovery must be very faint. My journey was rapid and had no other merit. The country (indeed like almost all the country in this island) is tame and uninteresting; perpetual small country-houses with their mean trimness and Lilliput ostentation. There are few of those worst of all sights on this road - a vast green field, dotted with trees, surrounded by a wall, and damped by a variety of swampy ponds, which call themselves country seats. I arrived at half past 2. My mother was on the pier. I sat with my father, who was, as he always is, very lively. He talked of the Grenvilles, and tho’ he admitted all the faults which make them so unpopular in the world, he praised them for many merits, especially Tom Grenville for his disinterested generosity about Lord Carysfort’s guardianship. I took a bath before dinner. Our guests were, The Lord Chancellor, Lady Lyndhurst, Duke of Devonshire, Sir James Mackintosh, Mr Whishaw, four selves. I never had met the Chancellor before; he is agreable in his manner and voice, and his language is choice and elegant. After dinner we talked of Napoleon and Bourrienne’s Memoires. Sir James said that the conversation there given between the Emperor and Auguste de Stael (at that time only 17 years old), is quite correct. That he has seen Auguste’s letter to his mother, detailing it just as it is told in Bourrienne. He went to meet Napoleon on his return from Italy, in order to solicit for his mother to be allowed to go nearer Paris - but in vain. The D. of D. is grown more absurd in his costume, more obtuse in hearing, and much duller than he used to be. I had a curious conversation after coffee, in which I dissipated the ill-grounded apprehensions of ___. Edward Romilly and Sir James Macdonald came after tea. The room was hot and the evening fatiguing. It is very painful to see and be in the room with someone one wishes excessively to speak to, without the possibility of doing so without becoming the gaze of the whole party. I went to bed at 12.’

In Brighton with George IV


Barclay Fox,

‘The deluge of 1841. The rain poured down in streams instead of drops, the low lands are inundated, walls & hedges are washed away. The water in some of the houses at Penryn is 4 or 5 feet deep & the inhabitants with their pigs are taking refuge in the top storey according to my father’s report, who went to Carlew this morning. The road about Stewart’s bone mill is converted into a rapid river 3 or 4 feet deep in some places. The like has not been known in this county within the memory of man. It is a happy thing for the old ladies that they can read of the covenant made with our forefathers that the world should never be drowned again, for certainly this looks somewhat suspicious. With Sterling for about an hour in the evening, to my usual edification.’

The day came at last


Henry Crabb Robinson,

‘I went to Robertson’s, and had two hours of interesting chat with him on his position here in the pulpit; also about Lady Byron. He speaks of her as the noblest woman he ever knew.’

Weeds don’t spoil


Sidney George Fisher,
lawyer and writer

‘My note in the paper. It is longer than I expected, occupying 5 1/2 columns. It is preceded by an announcement that it is a note appended to a volume entitled The Trial of the Constitution by Sidney G. Fisher, soon to be published by J. B. Lippincott & Co. This is the first time I ever published anything, except speeches, &c., with my name, altho it has always been mentioned in newspaper notices of other works. I have now left the shelter of privacy & come before the public as an author & of a book that contains many opinions on important & exciting topics likely to provoke attack & unfriendly criticism. I must take the consequences, some of which may be unpleasant. I believe the principles I have advanced to be true & have expressed them because I am convinced of their truth & from no selfish motives.’

Enjoy thy existence


Albert Einstein,

‘While in shirtsleeves received a card from pastor Steinichen announcing his visit to keep me informed about Frau Schulze’s case. Changed and got dressed quickly, partly in his presence. Then the English physician Gordon-Munroe, who was attending Frau Schulze. Verified that wife’s psychosis is due to husband’s maltreatment (employee at the German Embassy). 10:30, tea ceremony in a fine Japanese home. Exactly prescribed ceremony for a meal to celebrate friendship. Glimpse into the contemplative cultural life of the Japanese. The man has written four thick volumes on the ceremony, which he proudly showed us. Then, reception by 10,000 students at Waseda University, founded by Okuma (?) in the spirit of democracy, with addresses. Lunch at hotel. Then lecture. Viewing of the institute. Interesting communication about electric-arc line-shift. At 6:30 reception by pedagogical societies. During farewells, greeting by female seminar participants outside. Sweet, cheerful scene of throngs in semi-darkness. Too much love and spoiling for one mortal. Arrival home dead tired.’

Einstein’s wonderful day


Edward Weston,

‘Diego, refering to my head of Galván, said, “Es un retrato - portrait - de Mexico.”

I cannot work in such feverish haste as I do with my Graflex and register quite the critical definition desired. F/ll is the smallest stop possible to use without undertiming when making portrait heads in the sun, - setting the shutter at 1/10 second and using panchromatic films, - thus when depth is required my difficulties are increased. Diego’s ample belly as he sat on a packing box in the Secretaria patio, swelled forward quite like a woman pregnant, presenting much difficulty.

Jean thinks they are the most interesting set of proofs from a sitting that I have done in Mexico. Well - I do like some of them, yes, a number of them, yet I could wish, especially with Diego, that I had made something to be very enthusiastic over. In each proof I find a fault, granted a minor one, and I had hoped for a quite perfect negative from this sitting, not just because Diego is a big artist, rather because he is especially interested in my work.

Last evening we went to a “studio tea” at Fred Davis’s home: a genial host, delicious food and drink, many beautiful things, mixed to be sure with an overwhelming number of bad ones. But I am impatient, I cannot enjoy social gatherings; the meeting with a few friends, one or two at a time, is the only form of contact that appeals to me.

I face the fact that I find myself really happy only when I am lost behind my camera or locked in my dark-room. So today I became happy for a while: I photographed more of my “juguetes Mexicanos”, this time the “pajaritos” - little birds - in blue, - exquisite things in line. I combined two of them on my ground glass. Perhaps three negatives will be considered worth printing. Martial music, - soldiers pass below, - a bedraggled lot but with brave front: not to be denied, dogs of sorry mien march with the procession somewhat lowering its essayed dignity. Tonight Chapultepec Castle is a blaze of light. - All this is preparation, for tomorrow is Calles inauguration.

Surely here in Mexico we live in another world for Thanksgiving Day was passed quite unremembered! - perhaps it should have been.’

Lost behind my camera


Evelyn Waugh,

‘I am getting infinitely tired of London and its incessant fogs. Very little has happened lately. I see Evelyn a lot and a certain amount of Olivia. On Sunday I went to the first night of the Sitwell but was bitterly disappointed and bored. There had been a Sitwell party at Balston’s on the preceding Tuesday. I am getting on with the carpentry - Henry Lamb knows of a place in the country where I might work.’

Waugh’s appalling diaries


Ivan Maisky,

‘The royal wedding finally took place today. From first light, and even from the previous night, London seemed to be overflowing its banks. Up to half a million people descended on the capital from all over the country. Many foreigners arrived from the Continent. The streets along which the wedding procession would pass were filled to bursting by an immense crowd that had gathered on the previous evening to occupy the best places. Typically the crowd consisted almost entirely of women. I, at least, noticed barely a single man on my way from the embassy to the Westminster Abbey. [. . .]

On this occasion I was obliged to attend the wedding ceremony itself, in Westminster Abbey. That’s what Moscow decided. It was the first time I had attended a church service since leaving school, 33 years ago! That’s quite a stretch.

The diplomatic corps sat to the right of the entrance, and members of the government on the left. Simon was my partner on the opposite side. MacDonald zealously chanted psalms during the service. Baldwin yawned wearily, while [Walter] Elliot [minister for agriculture] simply dozed. Churchill looked deeply moved and at one point even seemed to wipe his eyes with a handkerchief.’

An old, leaky, faded umbrella!


Harold Nicolson,
politician and writer

‘I spend the day inserting into my notebook all the public events in the reign of George V. It is laborious, but useful and restful. I then read Sidney Lee’s biography of Edward VII, about which there hangs an aroma of feline skill.

Viti and I discuss after dinner whether Bertie Russell was right in stating that we should make war on Russia while we have the atomic bomb and they have not. It is a difficult problem. I think it is probably true that Russia is preparing for the final battle for world mastery and that once she has enough bombs she will destroy Western Europe, occupy Asia and have a final death struggle with the Americas. If that happens and we are wiped out over here, the survivors in New Zealand may say that we were mad not to have prevented this while there was still time. Yet, if the decision rested with me, I think I should argue as follows: “It may be true that we shall be wiped out, and that we could prevent this by provoking a war with Russia at this stage. It may be true that such a war would be successful and that we should then establish some centuries of Pax Americana - an admirable thing to establish. But there remains a doubt about all this. There is a chance that the danger may pass and peace can be secured by peace. I admit it is a frail chance - not one in ninety. To make war in defiance of that one chance is to commit a crime. Better to be wiped out by the crime of others than to preserve ourselves by committing a deliberate crime of our own. A preventive war is always evil. Let us rather die.”

And the New Zealander would say, “The man was mad” - or cowardly, or stupid, or just weak.’

For one’s great-grandson


Michael Palin,
actor and writer

‘[. . .] To Grant’s Bookshop in Stirling for my first signing session. [. . .] John Lennie, the Methuen rep for Scotland, drives me to Edinburgh.

Terry J arrives. He and I go for a nostalgic walk up to the Royal Mile. We nose around the Cranston Street Hall in the traditional manner. TJ remembers the thrill of seeing the feet of a forming queue through a small window down in the toilets . . . That was fifteen yean ago.

We find ourselves in a wonderful, small, grubby, friendly bar in Young Street - the Oxford Bar. This is the glorious opposite of all the carpeted ‘lounges’ where drinks are now taken. It’s small and gossipy and quite uncompromising with regard to comfort and decor . . . definitely a new ‘must’ when visiting Edinburgh.’

The Jones/Palin relationship


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And so made significant . . .
is the world’s greatest online anthology of diary extracts. It is presented in the same way as popular books like The Assassin’s Cloak and The Faber Book of Diaries, i.e. by calendar day, but contains more, and many longer, extracts than is possible in published books. Moreover, for each quoted extract there’s a link to a Diary Review article with some or all of the following: further extracts, biographical information, contexts, a portrait, and links to online sources/etexts. Furthermore, new extracts are added on a regular basis.

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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, several times a week. Now over ten years old, The Diary Review is the secondary source for the extracts in this online anthology.