And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

14 October

John Rous,

‘Newes from Cambridge that there was a greate fight betweene the king of Sweden with the duke of Saxony, and Tilly on the other side. Tilly was taken, and is deade [this is incorrect, he died the following year]; his whole army dispersed, &c. The king carried the duke among the slaine, and asked him how he liked of it. The duke said it was a sad spectacle. “Well,” said the king, “all this you are the cause of; for, if you had not stood neuter at the first, this had beene prevented.” Tilly bewailed his unfortunatenes, since, he cruelly massacred them of Magdenburgh, which he did at the emperor’s especiall command. [. . .]

Cambridge is wonderously reformed since the plague there; schollers frequent not the streetes and tavernes as before; but doe worse.’

Newes from Cambridge


Jonathan Swift,

‘I was going to dine with Dr. Cockburn, but Sir Andrew Fountaine met me, and carried me to Mrs. Van’s, where I drank the last bottle of Raymond’s wine, admirable good, better than any I get among the Ministry. I must pick up time to answer this letter of MD’s; I’ll do it in a day or two for certain. - I am glad I am not at Windsor, for it is very cold, and I won’t have a fire till November. I am contriving how to stop up my grate with bricks. Patrick was drunk last night; but did not come to me, else I should have given him t’other cuff. I sat this evening with Mrs. Barton; it is the first day of her seeing company; but I made her merry enough, and we were three hours disputing upon Whig and Tory. She grieved for her brother only for form, and he was a sad dog. Is Stella well enough to go to church, pray? no numbings left? no darkness in your eyes? do you walk and exercise? Your exercise is ombre. - People are coming up to town: the Queen will be at Hampton Court in a week. Lady Betty Germaine, I hear, is come; and Lord Pembroke is coming: his wife is as big with child as she can tumble.

Live ten times happier


Thomas Moore,
poet and singer

‘Spottiswoode and Harness to breakfast at Murray’s, for the purpose of consulting about the new edition of Byron. I have not myself come to any decisive explanation with him as to what my part or share in the business is to be. In one of my letters to him, from Sloperton, I had (in answer to his request that I would suggest what I thought useful towards the imdertaking) said, that, as far as the works were concerned, I thought a running commentary throughout, like that of Warton on Pope, would be the most attractive means of giving them freshness and novelty with the public; but adding, at the same time, that the task would be a very responsible one, particularly if it was a rhymer like me, who undertook to criticise such a poet. Harness very anxious that I should give him an epilogue for the tragedy he is bringing out. A good deal of talk about the projected edition of Byron, in which I saw that Harness took a great lead. Being obliged to leave them soon after breakfast, took Murray out of the room, and impressed upon him, that if I were to have anything to do with this concern it must be left all to myself without any other interference; he said ‘Certainly.’ [. . .]

To dinner at Sir Walter Scott’s (or rather Lockhart’s). On my way to dinner, with Murray, who took me, told him that I had made up my mind to be editor at all events, and that he might announce me as such; which seemed very much to please him. Was rather shocked at seeing and hearing Scott; both his looks and utterance, but particularly the latter, showing strongly the effects of paralysis. [. . .] On looking over at Scott once or twice, was painfully struck by the utter vacancy of his look. How dreadful if he should live to survive that mighty mind of his! It seems hardly right to assemble company round him in this state. Saw that I was doomed to sing. Mrs Lockhart began, and sung her wild song Achin Foane (as the words sound) to the harp with such effect on her Scotch hearers as made me a little despair of being listened to after her. I however succeeded very well, and was made to sing song after song till poor Scott’s time of going to bed; soon after which I came away. Mrs. Macleod also sang some Scotch duets with her sister. It is charming to see how Scott’s good temper and good nature continue unchanged through the sad wreck of almost every thing else that belonged to him. The great object in sending him abroad is to disengage his mind from the strong wish to write by which he is harmed; eternally making efforts to produce something without being able to bring his mind collectively to bear upon it. [. . .]

Called at the Speaker’s; saw both her and him, and he with much kindness asked me to his country place. When I expressed my wonder at his being able to hold out through all these long nights, he said it was all by not eating; if he had lived in his usual way he could not have borne it, but the want of exercise luckily took away his appetite, and this temperance saved him.’

Doomed to sing


George Templeton Strong,

‘We have burst. All the banks declined paying specie this morning, with the ridiculous exception of the Chemical, which is a little private shaving-shop of the Joneses with no depositors but its own stockholders.

Wall Street has been palpitating uneasily all day, but the first effect of the suspension is, of course, to make men breathe more freely. A special session is confidently expected, and the meeting of merchants at the Exchange at 3:30 P.M. appointed a committee that has gone to Albany to lay the case before Governor King. He ought to decline interference, but were I in his place I dare say my virtue would give way.

My great anxiety has been for the savings banks. Saw the officers of the two in which I feel a special interest (the Bleecker Street and Seaman’s). Both were suicidally paying specie and thus inviting depositors to come forward to get the gold they could get nowhere else and could sell at a premium. The latter changes from specie to bills tomorrow; the former did so this afternoon. All the savings banks are to do so tomorrow. The run has been very formidable; some say not so severe as it was yesterday, but bad enough. I think they will get through.’

Wall Street palpitating


Helena Modjeska,

‘We went to Stratford-on-Avon. The little house where the great William was born has been so often described that I already knew every corner in it. A strong emotion, however, thrilled me, when I entered that dwelling. When I looked around, this first impression was somehow dispelled by amazement at the human egotism and stupidity which prompt the people to put their own ‘I’ everywhere. Not only the walls, the window-panes, and the ceiling are covered with the names of visitors, but even the bust of the poet is defaced with them. What is the object of desecrating thus the sanctuary? Another proof of idiocy.

In the first room there is a chair by the fireside where Shakespeare used to sit, as tradition tell us. Every person who comes to that room sits down in the chair. Is there any sense in that action?

At the ‘New Place’ we saw an American couple, both young and handsome, kneel down and kiss the ground on which the great man walked. I wanted to do the same, but I had lived in England long enough to learn restraint, and limited my demonstrations to picking up some ivy leaves growing around the well. In church we saw the painted bust. I did not like it: The ruddy-cheeked and stout Shakespeare did not appeal to me.

Finally, later in the autobiography, Modjeska write about her current co-star, Edwin Booth. ‘Every one loved him,’ she says, ‘and all the remarks he made to the actors of his company were received as favors rather than reproofs.’She then writes: ‘I made a few notes on our life in the private car, which may throw more light upon the intimate character of that wonderful man and artist.’ Here’s one of those.

Pilgrimage to Stratford


William Booth,
priest and evangelist

‘I was weary myself. I had stood, balancing myself with the jerking of the carriage in its stops and starts, 4 hours. I couldn’t see the people craning their necks trying to see me without endeavouring to gratify them. Some may find fault with me, and say I made an exhibition of myself. That is what I have been doing with myself for my Master’s sake all my life, and what I shall continue to do as long as it lasts, and what I shall do through eternity for my Master’s sake and the people’s sake. And now I am restarted on the same path, the same work. A large part of my company has gone before, and I must travel the journey, in a sense that only those can understand who have been through it, alone.’

I got the truth out


Billy Congreve,

‘As bad a thing happened this morning as ever could happen. Hammy is dead, and we lose a splendid soldier and I a very good friend. He and Thorpe were out to the north of Vieille Chapelle; he had gone to see personally why our left wing was hung up. They were dismounted and standing on the road when a salvo of shrapnel burst right over them. One bullet hit him in the forehead, and he died almost immediately. He never spoke or opened his eyes. There were several other officers there besides Thorpe, yet nobody else was hit.

We brought his body back here tonight in a motor ambulance. We had to wait till night, as the road was still being shelled. During the day I had a rough coffin made and a grave dug under the walls of the old church here. At 7.15 p.m., when the ambulance arrived, we put him into it just as he was, wrapped in a blanket. I had to take the spurs off his poor feet though, as they would not fit, and then we nailed on the lid. I then put a guard around him with fixed bayonets and left him.

At 8.30 we all assembled. There was a representative from each unit and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien turned up also. Poor Lindsay, Hammy’s servant, kept breaking down. It was a pitch-dark night and had been raining hard all day, so there was mud everywhere and a cold wet ‘feel’ in the air. The rifle and machine-gun fire was very heavy, and it sounded but a few yards away, so loud was it and so still the night. Stray bullets now and then knocked up against the church and gravestones, but somehow nobody bothered about them.

Just before the chaplain arrived the firing almost ceased, but while the short service was being read it commenced again, louder and nearer than ever, so loud indeed that the chaplain’s voice could hardly be heard.

The scene was the strangest and most beautiful I have ever seen. The poor church battered by shells, the rough wooden coffin with a pewter plate nailed on the lid on which we had stamped his name, a rough cross of flowers made by the men, the small guard with fixed bayonets and the group of twenty or thirty bareheaded officers and men. Above all, the incessant noise, so close, sometimes dying down only to seem to redouble itself a few minutes later. A ghastly sort of light was given by a couple of acetylene lamps from a car. It was soon over, and then each officer and man stood for a moment by the grave, saluted, and went back to his work. 

Sir Horace, in that rather wonderful voice of his, said: ‘Indeed, a true soldier’s grave. God rest his soul.’ Nobody else spoke. I wanted to cry. I stayed and saw the filling in of the grave, and now I must see to putting up a cross.’

Hammy is dead


Michael Macdonagh,

‘The official account of the raid in the papers this morning issued by the Press Bureau is very brief. It says a Zeppelin visited “a London district”; that thirty-eight persons were killed and eighty-seven injured, and that but little damage was done to property. [. . .] I went out to see for myself what had actually happened. [. . .] Had the bombs fallen on the Lyceum, the Strand and the Aldwych Theatres - and each was missed by only a few yards - frightful massacres would have occurred. [. . .] All the killed and wounded in the raid were people who had been taken unawares in the street. No public warning of the coming of the Zeppelin was given. The raider was determined to mark his flight across London with fire and carnage. He dropped about twenty explosive and incendiary bombs, all within five minutes and nearly all in central London.’

The drama of London in WWI


Chiang Kai-shek,

‘I am so idle and self-indulgent that I have not been keeping my diaries for ten days! With such an unbridled and wanton attitude, how can I endeavor to wash away our national indignity and realize the success of the Chinese revolution?’

Chiang Kai-shek’s diaries


Lionel Robbins,

‘I spent Saturday night and Sunday with my sister and her husband at their home near Philadelphia. Nothing much of public interest. Caroline was very gloomy about the anti-British propaganda now being carried on by the New York Zionists and asked why we didn’t call the American bluff on all this. Joe was very solicitous about the loan negotiations, not a bit inquisitive but anxious that the Americans should act handsomely. He thought they ought to begin by paying us back for what we spent during the cash and carry period - a time which he seemed to regard as one of deep national humiliation. I did not disillusion him as to the prospects.

In the train coming back, I read a terrific discussion on Hayek in P.M. [liberal-leaning daily newspaper] - a special supplement devoted to the report of an inquiry into the vogue of the Road to Serfdom. Had it been financed by big business etc? It was all a little comic for in the end after much sound and fury and thumbnail sketches of Aaron Director, John Davenport and others, the investigator was forced to the conclusion that there was no conspiracy of big business. The reception of Hayek’s book by the intellectuals over here is really most discreditable to their sense of fairness and candour. I am beginning to think that P. M. is not much better than The New Statesman.

Tergiversations of policy


Peter Handke,

‘Fantasy: an express train thundering through the suburban station; someone running ahead of it but refusing to scream

On the street today, the feeling that many people knew “who I am” but passed by without a thought of betraying me; some even tried to reassure me with a quick glance

The leaves racing over the ground; impression of a cavalcade, especially when I climb steps to reach the park where the leaves are blowing; there’s one place where the leaves disperse in all directions, leaving a clean empty circle in the middle of the park

How much more domesticated I am, after all, when I’m talking to someone than when I’m roaming around alone! (Fantasy: unaware that I’m watching them, some people, including my calm friends, made almost unrecognizable by their adventurous loneliness, race through the cities of the world with wild, glaring eyes)

Toward midnight, objects, seen out of the corners of my eyes, are starting to crawl again’

A dead chicken in my chest


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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.

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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.