And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

12 October

George Rooke,
naval commander

‘Early this morning the soldiers were got in a readiness to disembark, and all landed in a little bay on the starboard side going up to the Rondello, about a league above Vigo, at 11 o’clock.

At ten weighed with the fleet and stood in close to the two forts at the entrance of the harbour, but proving calm, Vice-Admiral Hopsonn was forced to anchor, the cannon from both sides playing amongst the ships, but did no great damage.

Ordered the Association and Barfleur to lay near the forts and to flank’em, to force the men from the batteries in case our ships should stop at the boom.

The forts were observed to fire about thirty guns on the starboard, and fifteen or sixteen on the larboard. At twelve went aboard the Torbay, and viewed the forts, boom, and position of the French ships, and at one, the wind coming pretty fresh, the Admiral ordered the Vice-Admiral to slip and push for it, which he immediately did, and by half an hour after one, with great success, broke the boom, and notwithstanding the great fire that was from both the forts, and eight of the French that were very conveniently posted, the three first divisions got in. The army got up to the fort just as the ships got past and took it. One, and, soon after, three, of the French ships were set on fire, and all abandoned the ship Monsieur Chateau Renaud was in, being first afire, and those near the boom, so that before our ships began to appear pretty clear, and Vice-Admiral Hopsonn returned to the Somerset to give the Admiral an account as well as he could of the action, that he found all our ships well except the Torbay which had been laid aboard by a French fireship which was luckily got a little off, but blew up and set only their sails and side afire, which also, by the captain’s and men’s good management, was put out; but fifty-three men were drowned, with the first lieutenant, Mr. Graydon, and the purser by the accident of her blowing up.

In the evening went up round the harbour and found by the account of Monsieur le Marquis de Gallisoniere, Captain of the Hope, that the following ships were here viz . . .

He says also that all the King’s plate, about 3,000,000 sterling, was taken out and carried to a town about twenty-five leagues up the country, but that only forty small chests of cutcheneel [cochineal] was carried ashore.’

Rooke’s Battle of Vigo Bay


Jonathan Swift,

‘Mrs. Vanhomrigh has changed her lodging as well as I. She found she had got with a bawd, and removed. I dined with her to-day; for though she boards, her landlady does not dine with her. I am grown a mighty lover of herrings; but they are much smaller here than with you. In the afternoon I visited an old major-general, and ate six oysters; then sat an hour with Mrs. Colledge, the joiner’s daughter that was hanged; it was the joiner was hanged, and not his daughter; with Thompson’s wife, a magistrate. There was the famous Mrs. Floyd of Chester, who, I think, is the handsomest woman (except MD) that ever I saw. She told me that twenty people had sent her the verses upon Biddy, as meant to her: and, indeed, in point of handsomeness, she deserves them much better. I will not go to Windsor to-morrow, and so I told the Secretary to-day. I hate the thoughts of Saturday and Sunday suppers with Lord Treasurer. Jack Hill is come home from his unfortunate expedition, and is, I think, now at Windsor: I have not yet seen him. He is privately blamed by his own friends for want of conduct. He called a council of war, and therein it was determined to come back. But they say a general should not do that, because the officers will always give their opinion for returning, since the blame will not lie upon them, but the general. I pity him heartily. Bernage received his commission to-day.’

Live ten times happier


John Rutty,

‘One sacred, solemn lesson has been learnt from my late severe three afflictions, and which, I humbly hope, will more than compensate for all, viz. To drink little as sufficient - a lesson, wherein are deeply interested soul, body, and temporal estate.’

A vicious feast


Lewis Carroll,

‘Help me, oh God, to serve Thee better. For Jesus Christ’s sake.

Called on Macmillan, and had some talk about the book, but settled little. Then to Terry’s, to say that I have given up photographing in town this time. I found Mr. Terry (whom I had not seen before), Charlie and Tom. Florence is pretty, but not so fascinating as Polly: both will probably grow up beautiful. Thence I went to Tenniel’s who showed me one drawing on wood, the only thing he had, of Alice sitting by the pool of tears, and the rabbit hurrying away. We discussed the book, and agreed on about 34 pictures.’

Dodgson in wonderland


Helena Modjeska,

‘Frou-frou. The house was not well filled. The play was too Frenchy, some one said. We were all in bad humor, which did not help the performance.

It is my birthday. I received many presents and cards from friends and even strangers, but not one word from Poland. I must return, or else they will forget me entirely. This evening I formed a strong resolution to leave the stage in two or three years.

I may succeed, because I have good work in view: to found schools for the mountaineers’ children, and begin by Zakopane. I have no distinct plans, only a desire to do something good.’

Pilgrimage to Stratford


Thomas Cobden-Sanderson,

‘Yesterday was a lost day, save that in the morning I was at Westminster Cathedral and St Paul’s - the former, by the way, was the finer. St Paul’s seemed littered up with columns and architectural ornament, and the arches under the dome hideous in the meanness of their junctions coming down together, and [William Blake] Richmond’s decoration has not enlarged them. The effect of the Cathedral, on the other hand, with sun and shade and enclosed atmosphere, was quite beautiful. In both, however, the singing was enchanting.’

Innumerable ripples; countless diamonds


Aleister Crowley,
writer and priest

‘Object: ‘Io Pan!’ Operation: Orgie from 8.15 circa, continuous work, aided by C[ocaine] and B[randy]. Wonderful. Elixir admirable in all ways.’

Do what thou wilt


Sergei Prokofiev,

‘My first recital. A little early on in the season, but we had wanted a Sunday, and all the later ones had been taken. I was a little nervous of the Bach, but the performance passed off without incident. The Beethoven Contredanses were very good, also the Schumann Sonata. But the greatest success was reserved for the five shorter pieces of mine with which I concluded the programme, ending up with Suggestion Diabolique. This had an extraordinary success, reminiscent of the good old days in Petrograd. I gave six encores.’

Finishing Three Oranges


Zorina Gray,

‘In the evening at Positano I looked over to the Isola dei Galli, where I had spent my vacation the year before with Massine. It lay far in the distance - like a part of my life - such a beautiful place, like a rough, craggy diamond in the sea. It could have been - I tried not to think about it.

Our leisurely Italian sojourn was at times troubled, because I was anxiously awaiting news about On Your Toes.’

My knees felt like macaroni


Karl Ristikivi,

‘I am afraid of people, afraid of illness, afraid of accidents. And unfortunately this is not without reason’

Estonian writer’s secret drawer


Maria Colvin,

‘For me, it was my father’s death. It’s as if my prior life had been lived unconscious; as if looking back, it had been lived by someone else . . . The realization that what mattered was being able to write, that I was scared to attempt it because of fear of failure; everything has always come so easy for me. To fail at anything else would not really be to fail; to fail at writing would be real failure. And to succeed the only success I would value.

Like being an upended turtle


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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 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.