And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

21 October

1855
Jane Carlyle,
wife of philosopher

‘Neither my birthday nor newyear’s-day this; anniversaries on which I “feel it my duty,” usually, to bloom out into the best intentions, beginning and ending always with the intention to resume my old journal. But if “carried out” to the extent of a few pages, it has “gone,” even that smallest of good intentions, “to the greater number,” before a week was out! Decidedly I am no longer the little girl who used to say over her most difficult tasks, “I'll gar myself do it”!

The mother of Invention has garred me do so much against the grain, that I am too fatigued now to gar myself do anything I can get let alone. And after all; one may keep a journal very minutely and regularly and still be a great fool! all the greater perhaps for this very labour of selfconsciousness which is so apt to degenerate into a dishonest striving to “make a silk purse out of a sows ear” for posthumous admiration or sympathy - from one’s Executors; or even for present self-complacent mistification of oneself!

I remember Charles Buller saying of the Duchess de Praslin’s murder; “what could a poor fellow do with a wife who kept a journal, but murder her?” There was a certain truth hidden in this light remark. Your Journal “all about feelings” aggravates whatever is factitious and morbid in you; that I have made experience of; and now the only sort of journal I would keep should have to do with what Mr Carlyle calls “the fact of things”. It is very bleak and barren this “fact of things” as I now see it - very! And what good is to result from writing of it in a paper-book is more than I can tell. But I have taken a notion ‘TO’; and perhaps I shall blacken more paper this time, when I begin “quite promiscuously,” without any moral end in view but just, as the Scotch Professor drank whiskey “because I like it, and because it's cheap.” ’

I walked, walked, walked

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1914
Charles de Foucauld,
priest

‘This is the war for Europe’s independence of Germany. And the way in which the war is carried on shows how necessary it was, how great was Germany’s power, and how it was time to break the yoke before she became still more formidable; it shows by what barbarians Europe was half enslaved, and near becoming completely so, and how necessary it is once for all to deprive of force a nation which uses it so badly and in such an immoral and dangerous way for others. It is Germany and Austria that wanted war, and it is they who deserved to have it made against them, and who, I hope, will receive a blow that will make them unable to do any harm for centuries.’

From playboy to ascetic

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1944
William Lyon Mackenzie King,
prime minister

‘Arrived at the Parliament Buildings at noon had a really interesting afternoon as a consequence. In the Railway Committee room met Shirley Temple, her mother and father, and some of the repatriated boys. . . I was greatly attracted by Shirley Temple - a young girl of great charm, very pretty, very natural; I liked her father and mother, both of whom were quiet, pleasant people. . . I have seldom found anyone more natural than Shirley Temple was, or quicker to adapt herself to every situation. We walked out together to the platform facing Parliament Hill and I sat to her right, and St Laurent to her left. It was quite interesting to watch her methods to rouse the boys to cheer. Very self-possessed, full of joyous freedom and expression in every way. . .

After the proceedings we had a very exciting time. I walked with her to the car, allowed her father and mother to get in, and sat on a small seat myself. We were not more than started when crowds gathered in front of the car and on all sides. It was such that it was impossible for us to move. This kept up all the way to the hotel. Police arrangements not good. . . I expected to find it easy once in the hotel, but there the situation was worse than ever. There was no police, except a big man, who had gone in first and another who joined in later. The Chateau was crowded with children. Young people squeezed in around us. Shirley’s father and I tried to protect her but Mrs Temple got lost in the crowd to one side. To my amazement we had to crash through all the way, to one of elevator doors, leaving Mrs Temple behind. . .

When we came up together everyone was pretty well fatigued. I found my heart beating very fast, and finding it difficult to get my breath. I had not realised how considerable the strain had been. I was really fearful at one stage that the little girl would be crushed. Certainly, if anyone had slipped there would have been a terrible situation. It was quite shocking, having no police, and to have to have let the crowds indoors. I literally had to carry her along from the front door through the gathering to the elevator.’

A real companion and friend

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1959
Lee Harvey Oswald,
assassin

‘(mor) Meeting with single offial. Balding stout, black suit fairly. good English, askes what do I want?, I say Sovite citizenship, he ask why I give vauge answers about ‘Great Soviet Union’ He tells me ‘USSR only great in Literature wants use to go back home’ I am stunned I reiterate, he says he shall check and let me know weather my visa will be (exteaded it exipiers today) Eve. 6.00 Recive word from police official. I must leave country tonight at. 8.00 P.M. as visa expirs. I am shocked!! My dreams! I retire to my room. I have $100. left. I have waited for 2 year to be accepted. My fondest dreams are shattered because of a petty offial; because of bad planning I planned to much!’

‘7.00 P.M. I decide to end it..[1] Soak rist in cold water to numb the pain. Than slash my left wrist. Than plunge wrist into bathtub of hot water. I think ‘when Rimma comes at 8. to find me dead it wil be a great shock. somewhere, a violin plays, as I watch my life whirl away. I think to myself, ‘how easy to die’ and ‘a sweet death,’ (to violins) wacth my life whirl away. I think to myself. ‘how easy to die’ and a sweet death, (to violins ) about 8.00 Rimma finds my unconcious (bathtub water a rich red color) she screams (I remember that) and runs for help. Amulance comes, am taken to hospital where five stitches are put in my wrist. Poor Rimmea stays by side as interrpator (my Russian is still very bad) far into the night, I tell her ‘go home’ (my mood is bad) but she stays, she is my ‘friend’ She has a strong will only at this moment I notice she is preety’

JFK’s assassin in Moscow

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1974
George W Bush,
president

‘Am I running away from something?’; ‘Am I leaving what with inflation, incivility in the press and Watergate and all the ugliness?’; ‘Am I taking the easy way out?’ The answer I think is ‘no’, because of the intrigue and fascination that is China. I think it is an important assignment; it is what I want to do; it was what I told the President [Gerald Ford] I want to do; and all in all, in spite of the great warnings of isolation, I think it is right - at least for now.’

Poindexter, Reagan and Bush

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1974
Paul K Lyons,
writer

‘I [. . .] bus out to the university it’s fairly modern, with a nice hilly setting in the forest-covered hills around Penang. In 1980, I learn, the main language will change to Malay. I bus a bit further out to the snake temple - a small Chinese temple which, a long time ago, became a refuge for snakes. A few are now kept on twigs inside the temple - poisonous pit vipers - hardly worth the trip except maybe to see a tourist with snakes on his head and a photographer looking happy.’

The fascination that is China

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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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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, usually several every week. The blog has been publishing for over five years, and is the secondary source for the diary extracts in this online anthology.