And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

22 October

1626
François de Bassompierre,
diplomat

‘Thursday, 22d. I was in the morning to see the ambassador of Danemark. The duke, with the Earls of Carlile and Holland and Montaigne, came to dine with me; I saw, en passant, the ambassador of the States on business, then I was to the queen’s, and that evening at Madame D’Estranges.’

Bassompierre in London

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1711
Jonathan Swift,
writer

‘I dined in the City to-day with Dr. Freind, at one of my printers: I inquired for Leigh, but could not find him: I have forgot what sort of apron you want. I must rout among your letters, a needle in a bottle of hay. I gave Sterne directions, but where to find him Lord knows. I have bespoken the spectacles; got a set of Examiners, and five pamphlets, which I have either written or contributed to, except the best, which is the vindication of the Duke of Marlborough, and is entirely of the author of the Atalantis. I have settled Dingley’s affair with Tooke, who has undertaken it, and understands it. I have bespoken a Miscellany: what would you have me do more? It cost me a shilling coming home; it rains terribly, and did so in the morning. Lord Treasurer has had an ill day, in much pain. He writes and does business in his chamber now he is ill: the man is bewitched: he desires to see me, and I’ll maul him, but he will not value it a rush. I am half weary of them all. I often burst out into these thoughts, and will certainly steal away as soon as I decently can. I have many friends, and many enemies; and the last are more constant in their nature. I have no shuddering at all to think of retiring to my old circumstances, if you can be easy; but I will always live in Ireland as I did the last time; I will not hunt for dinners there, nor converse with more than a very few.’

Live ten times happier

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1815
George Cockburn,
sailor and politician

‘Since General Buonaparte’s arrival at St Helena I have been so occupied that I have seen but little of him. I went with him, however, one day to Longwood, and he seemed tolerably satisfied with it, though with his attendants he has since been complaining a good deal; and having stated to me that he could not bear the crowds which gathered to see him in the town, he has, at his own request been permitted to take up his residence (until Longwood should be completed) at a small house called the Briars, where there is a pretty good garden, and a tolerably large room, detached from the house, of which he has taken possession, and in which and the garden he remains almost all day; but in the evenings I understand he has regularly invited himself to join the family party in the house, where he plays at whist with the ladies of the family for sugar-plums until his usual hour of retiring for the night.’

Napoleon plays whist

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1928
Evelyn Waugh,
writer

‘I had my hair cut and met Martin Wilson. He seems to bear no malice for Decline and Fall. From there to the exhibition of Maillols. The sculpture magnificent but the wood engravings not particularly meritorious. Alathea lunched with me at Taglioni’s, very lovely and vague, with an air of just waking up after an uneasy night. Extraordinarily ingenuous with a fluttery eagerness to skate and go to the theatre and see the latest pictures. After luncheon to my tailor’s to try on a check suit.’

Waugh’s appalling diaries

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1959
Lee Harvey Oswald,
assassin

‘Hospital I am in a small room with about 12 others (sick persons.) 2 ordalies and a nurse the room is very drab as well as the breakfast. Only after prolonged (2 hours) observation of the other pat. do I relize I am in the Insanity ward. This relizatinn disqits me. Later in afternoon I am visited by Rimma, she comes in with two doctors, as interr she must ask me medical question; Did you know what you were doing? Ans. yes Did you blackout? No. ect. I than comp. about poor food the doctors laugh app. this is a good sign Later they leave, I am alone with Rimma (amognst the mentaly ill) she encourgest me and scolds me she says she will help me me get trasfered to another section of Hos. (not for insane) where food is good.’

JFK’s assassin in Moscow

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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, 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.