And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

4 October

1624
William Whiteway,
politician

‘This night there was an extraordinary storme of wynd and rayne, which blew downe many houses, overthrew many great trees, cast away many ships in all ports, amongst the rest 4 at Melcombe in the hole, of which one was mr Pits, one mr Royes and 2 french men. There were 11 french men drowned in the same.’

The towne took on fire

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1726
Benjamin Franklin,
politician

‘Last night we struck a dolphin and this morning we found a flying-fish dead under the windlass. He is about the bigness of a small mackerel, a sharp head, a small mouth, and a tail forked somewhat like a dolphin, but the lowest branch much larger and longer than the other, and tinged with yellow. His back and sided of a darkish blue, his belly white, and his skin very thick. His wings are of a finny substance, about a span long, reaching, when close to his body from an inch below his gills to an inch above his tail. When they fly it is straight forward, (for they cannot readily turn,) a yard or two above the water; and perhaps fifty yards in the furthest before they dip into the water again, for they cannot support themselves in the air any longer than while their wings continue wet. These flying-fish are the common prey of the dolphin, who is their mortal enemy. When he pursues them, they rise and fly; and he keeps close under them till they drop, and then snaps them up immediately. They generally fly in flocks, four or five, or perhaps a dozen together and a dolphin is seldom caught without one or more in his belly. We put this flying-fish upon the hook, in hopes of catching one, but in a few minutes they got it off without hooking themselves; and they will not meddle with any other bait.’

Founding Father Franklin

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1835
Elizabeth Gaskell,
writer

‘I see it is exactly two months since I last wrote in this book, and I hope my little girl is improved both in ‘body & mind’ since then. She suffered a good deal from the changes of weather we have had, and I have found it necessary to leave off milk as an article of diet at present. She lives on broth thickened with arrowroot, & I think this food strengthens her, but she is still a delicate child, and backward in walking.’

My dear little girl

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1915
Hugo Ball,
artist

‘I tend to compare my own private experiences with the nation’s. I see it almost as a matter of conscience to perceive a certain parallel there. It may be a whim, but I could not live without the conviction that my own personal fate is an abbreviated version of the fate of the whole nation. If I had to admit that I was surrounded by highwaymen, nothing in the world could convince me that they were not my fellow countrymen whom I live among. I bear the signature of my homeland, and I feel surrounded by it everywhere I go.

If I ask myself in the dead of night what the purpose of all this might be, then I could well answer: So that I might lay aside my prejudices forever. So that I might experience the meaning of what I once took seriously: the backdrop. So that I might detach myself from this age and strengthen myself in the belief in the improbable.

The naiveté of those people who are afflicted with incurable diseases and are treated for rationalism. There is no doubt that it is a great time - for a healer of souls.’

A wish or a curse

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1935
Hannah Senesh,
soldier

‘Horrible! Yesterday war broke out between Italy and Abyssinia. Almost everyone is frightened the British will intervene and that as a result there will be war in Europe. Just thinking about it is terrible. The papers are already listing the dead. I can’t understand people; how quickly they forget. Don’t they know that the whole world is still groaning from the curse of the last World War? Why this killing? Why must youth be sacrificed on a bloody scaffold when it could give so much that is good and beautiful to the world if it could just be allowed to tread peaceful roads?

Now there is nothing left to do but pray that this war will remain a local one, and end as quickly as possible. I can’t understand Mussolini wanting to acquire colonies for Italy, but, after all, the British ought to be satisfied with owning a third of the world - they don’t need all of it. It is said, however, that they are frightened of losing their route to India. Truly, politics is the ugliest thing in the world.

But to talk of more specific things. One of Gyuri’s friends [Gyuri - her brother] is courting me. He was bold enough to ask whether I would go walking with him next Sunday. I said I would, if Gyuri went along. If everything he told me is true, then I feel very sorry for him; evidently he doesn’t have a decent family life. There is something wrong there, that’s for sure.’

Israel’s Joan of Arc

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1947
Nettie Palmer,
writer

‘N. finishing note on Masefield in Melbourne; begin one on E.T. Brown . . . . Our worst years were 1937-39, when we were entangled in politics to no avail. We knew what was coming and no one would believe us except some fanatics who believed everything in advance. We knew too many people, for insufficient reasons.’

N. tinkering with diaries

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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, 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.