And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

5 October

John Evelyn,

‘I went to St Paul’s to see the choir, now finished as to the stone work, and the scaffold struck both without and within, in that part. Some exceptions might perhaps be taken as to the placing columns on pilasters at the east tribunal. As to the rest it is a piece of architecture without reproach. The pulling out the forms, like drawers, from under the stalls, is ingenious. I went also to see the building beginning near St Giles’s, where seven streets make a star from a Doric pillar placed in the middle of a circular area; said to be built by Mr Neale, introducer of the late lotteries, in imitation of those at Venice, now set up here, for himself twice, and now one for the State.’

A most excellent person


Benjamin Franklin,

‘This morning we saw a heron, who had lodged aboard last night. It is a long-legged, long-necked bird, having, as they say, but one gut. They live upon fish, and will swallow a living eel thrice, sometimes, before it will remain in their body. The wind is west again. The ship’s crew was brought to a short allowance of water.’

Founding Father Franklin


Thomas Green,

‘Pursued Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Johnson’s coarse censure of Lord Chesterfield, “that he taught the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing master”, is as unjust as it is harsh. Indeed I have always thought the noble author of Letters to his Son, hardly dealt with by the Public; though to public opinion I have the highest deference. How stands the case? Having bred up his son to a youth of learning and virtue, and consigned him to a tutor well adapted to cultivate these qualities, he naturally wishes to render him an accomplished gentleman; and, for this purpose, undertakes, in person, a task for which none surely was so well qualified as himself. I follow the order he assigns, and that which his Letters testify he pursued. Well! but he insists eternally on such frivolous points - the graces - the graces! Because they were wanting, and the only thing wanting. Other qualities were attained, or presumed to be attained: to correct those slovenly, shy, reserved, and uncouth habits in the son, which as he advanced in life grew more conspicuous; and threatened to thwart all the parent’s fondest prospects in his child, was felt, and justly felt, by the father, to have become an imperious and urgent duty; and he accordingly labours at it with parental assiduity, an assiduity, which none but a father would have bestowed upon the subject. Had his Lordship published these Letters; as a regular System of Education, the common objection to their contents would have, had unanswerable force: viewing them however in their true light, as written privately and confidentially by a parent to his child - inculcating, as he naturally would, with the greatest earnestness, not what was the most important, but most requisite - it must surely be confessed, there never was a popular exception more unfounded. But he - I admit it: he touches upon certain topics, which, a sentiment of delicacy suggests, between a father and son had better been forborne: yet those who might hesitate to give the advice, if they are conversant with the world, and advert to circumstances, will not be disposed to think the advice itself injudicious.’

Dipped into Bacon’s essays


Michael Faraday,

‘The crystals of the substance (from a strong alcoholic solution) were very brittle and crumbled into a white powder very easily. It is on this account difficult to preserve them. They were taken out of the Alcohol, dried by pressure between filtering paper, exposed to the air for half an hour and then put into a bottle. The substance was then a white dry powder.

The Alcoholic solution spontaneously evaporated; left crystals of the substance but they evaporated also in an hour or two afterwards.

The crystals by sublimation are much tougher than those formed from solutions.

The substance dissolves much more readily in Ether than in Alcohol. A hot solution of Ether deposits crystals as it cools. A glass rod dipped in it and exposed to the air is instantly covered with the substance in white powder from the evaporation of the ether.

Query acidity of solution? My ether was acid.

A drop of the etherial solution put on a glass plate instantly expands, evaporates and its surface becomes covered with square crystalline plates, the crystals being dendritic and their axes lying parallel to the diagonals of the square. In this way the substance may be got very dry.

Water dissolves but a very small portion of it when boiled with it.

The solution of it in Alcohol is not acid - and is not precipitated by Nitrate of silver.

Solution of potash does not dissolve it perceptibly by boiling - nor Ammonia (strong). Muriatic acid does act on it.

Nitric acid (strong) boiled upon it dissolves a portion but does not decompose it: as it cools the substance deposits again unaltered. The concentrated acid diluted lets more of the substance fall; and then filtered and tested by N. of Silver gave no precipitate - hence no chlorine separated from the substance by it.

Put into strong Sul. Acid it very slowly sinks to the bottom, hence its S.G.; boiled with the acid the acid became brown, probably from some little pieces of dirt that were mixed with the substance. The substance sublimed from and through the acid unaltered and the acid tested contained no Mur. Acid or chlorine. It was not precipitated by water, hence no substance dissolved.’

My ether was acid


Gideon Mantell,
doctor and scientist

‘Drove to Brighton and called on Lord Egremont, who spoke to me on the subject of my removal to Brighton, and munificently offered me a thousand pounds to assist me in the removal!’

Gideon Mantell - geologist


William Charles Macready,

‘My whole morning was occupied in endeavouring to think of something to say in the speech for which I am engaged to propose Dickens‘s health. I went to town with Edward. Dressed, went with Edward to the Albion, Aldersgate Street, where we met Dickens, Maclise, Forster, [. . .], the publishers Bradbury & Evans, etc., the printers of Nickleby. We sat down to a too splendid dinner - the portrait of Dickens by Maclise was in the room. I had to begin what the Duke of Sussex terms “the business“ of the day, by proposing Dickens‘s health. I spoke of him as one who made the amelioration of his fellow-men the object of all his labours - and whose characteristic was philanthropy.’

A surprising man


Helena Modjeska,

‘Two days ago we rehearsed ‘Marie Stuart.’ It was a sad rehearsal. W. flirted with the dark-eyed Vivian, and paid no attention to his lines; the prompter snored in his chair, and Elizabeth could not read her part fluently, and said by way of excuse that she did not think it worth while to pay much attention to such an insignificant part.

I am still reading the life of Ste. Jeanne Franchise de Chantal. Yesterday I had to put the book aside because I cried so much over the death of young Baron de Torrens and his wife, and over the silent resignation of Madame Chantal. Charles laughed, and said I would never grow old. I feel, indeed, as young at times as I was at twelve, and only when I look in the mirror the sad truth is revealed. But no matter, the older I grow the better I shall be, Anna says, ‘like the old wine.’

When shall I see the Carpathian Mountains again? When?

Yesterday we were invited to supper by Mr. Rogers, the manager of the Prince of Wales Theatre. Mr. and Mrs. Kendal were there and also Mr. Hare. Mr. Rogers spoke a great deal of the brotherhood of actors. How optimistic! After the supper, Mrs. Kendal sang ballads, and was very eloquent and entertaining. Miss Rogers, who was in Poland, and knows a few Polish words, talked to me about cur mutual friends and acquaintances.’

Pilgrimage to Stratford


Dorothy Mackellar,

‘Mother got the Doctor worry out of me . . . Doctor Skirving came in the afternoon and poked me and said I was altogether run-down, but not organically wrong, and I needed more clay, and R.S.D. came, very worried, and we all talked. He came to my room and said the bed should be moved, so he and Mac moved it and I felt limp and fairly calm. Evening: Just reading. Read books of sonnets that he brought and The Story of the Guides (Younghusband) and A Comer of Spain and Wilde’s Ideal Husband.’

I love a sunburnt country


Jules Roy,
soldier and writer

‘Another four years to say “less than thirty years old”. Will I be forgiven for being “old” without having yet published ten novels and four essays? October. To tell the truth, is it not there that we must seek the key to my sadness with causes which are rather obscure and too frequent? I change my mood twenty times a day, like the sky. Fromentin makes Dominique say: “There is in the minds of some men I do not know what an elegiac mist always ready to spread in rain on their ideas. Too bad for those who were born in the mists of October!” ’

From bomber to writer


Peter Pears,

‘Ben called early, very clear to hear.

I did go to the rehearsal at 10:30 of Act I, and I started well and got most of it right. Then suddenly at about 11:45, I lost memory, courage and all, and left the rehearsal in despair. However, before doing so I made a date with Richard Voitach, the understudy for Steuart Bedford and a junior conductor on the Met staff, to work with him on D in V at 4 o’clock. We spent a MOST VALUABLE 1 3/4 hours on the opera, which restored my confidence and made me feel much BETTER. A nice helpful man. The Met’s acoustics are so good that a small voice like mine well-protected will sound perfectly clear and good! Let’s hope so. . .

Was stopped by a boy with a beard as I left Met who had heard D in V at Aldeburgh. Madly enthusiastic. Had just seen Don Giovanni matinee. ‘How was it?’ ‘Well, it was was well conducted.’

6:30. Home to a gin and my view over Central Park. The trees darken, the lights go on, the other side (East) looks like a chalk cliff, with a pale glow above. Reminded me of the olive trees below Delphi!!

Still taking ANTIBIOTICS. Back to Milton. Paradise Lost: splendid scene of Lucifer massing his forces, who move ‘in perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood of flutes and soft recorders’. Poor instruments! Do they belong to the devil?’

Peter Pears centenary


Richard Proenneke,
mechanic and naturalist

‘Overcast, Breeze up & 27°. The kettle of caribou to cook and the cabin to restock from the cache. Rain jacket to mend and heavy socks to darn. Jake took a tour with his 35 mm. A good cover of snow but we needed sunshine to go with it. The breeze had been light early but as the day progressed it picked up to a good blow. The lake very rough and the Cub resting easy on its rack behind the high breakwater. A real safe tie down with the lake level low.

A sourdough sandwich and a sampling of caribou ribs with broth for lunch. This afternoon we would light off the fireplace for the second time since Jake came. He mentioned someone roasting steak cubes at a beach party so I diced a couple moose steaks. Smeared them with bacon grease and seasoning and prepared a couple roasting sticks. Real good, but I think roasting them through the open door of the stove would do better but lack the open fire effect.

A few bunches of swan passed and one large flock of grey geese. The weather down country looked very cold and wind blown. I sliced and trimmed more moose meat and wished that I had the remainder that lay on the beach near the head of the Chili River. If it is a bad day tomorrow I just might spend the day hiking down and back with the light load. See how N70039 is doing as I pass.

The sky was pink above a huge roll of grey clouds at sunset. The wind strong and cold. I put the thermometer in my potato box in the woodshed. When I went for it, 30° and I brought them in. It went into my cooler box for there is green stuff there. 36° when I went to check - good for a few days at least.

A good supper with boiled spuds and gravy. Moose steaks, tender and juicy. A big green salad and beans. Our old standby for dessert. Two gallons and a qt. of blueberries in the bank. The picking season is over. Now at 7:50, the surf is noisy on the beach, a few flakes of snow in the air, temp. 27°.’

Sourdough sandwich, caribou ribs


Stephen Spender,

‘I wrote a poem about Derwentwater. One of my best, at this moment, I think. Why do I have such resistance to writing poetry? Since when I am writing it I can become very absorbed, happy, fascinated. The resistance comes first from the sense not so much of failure as of non-recognition. I can’t really convince myself my poetry gives pleasure to anyone. I feel apologetic sending it to a friend, humiliated sending it to an editor, as though asking for a favour. Next, writing it is a test in which all one’s best qualities are brought in confrontation with all one’s incapacitiy. Next, poetry is not ‘work’. And there is always ‘work’ elbowing its way in and pushing poetry aside. [. . .]

Being a minor poet is like being minor royalty, and no one, as a former lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret once explained to me, is happy as that.’

The ghost of a reader


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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.

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, several times a week. Now over ten years old, The Diary Review is the secondary source for the extracts in this online anthology.