And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

6 October

1726
Benjamin Franklin,
politician

‘This morning abundance of grass, rock-weed, &c., passed by us; evident tokens that land is not far off. We hooked a dolphin this morning, made us a good breakfast. A sail passed by us about twelve o’clock, and nobody saw her till she was too far astern to be spoken with. It is very near calm; we saw another sail ahead this afternoon; but, night coming on, we could not speak with her, though we very much desired it; she stood to the northward, and it is possible might have informed us how far we are from land. Our artists on board are much at a loss. We hoisted our jack to her, but she took no notice of it.

Founding Father Franklin

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1849
Edward Hodges Cree,
surgeon

‘Coaling, preparatory to another pirate hunting expedition: this time to the west, where a large fleet of pirate vessels are said to be crusing, plundering junks trading to Hong Kong, and burning villages, &c. They are supposed to be in the neighbourhood of Hai-nan Island.’

Pirate hunting expedition

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1853
George William Frederick Howard,
politician

‘There was great beauty in the sunrise gilding the long extent of the town of Scio [Chios], as we steamed in front of it this morning. We landed, and walked about with our vice-consul, Signer Yedova, a very hearty and intelligent Italian. The long line and successive terraces of town even yet exhibit an immense proportion of ruins, to attest the massacres perpetrated by the Turks during the Greek revolution in 1822 and 1826; almost the most complete and deplorable that ever occurred. Here, indeed, was one of the exceptional cases to which I have referred; but it cannot be denied, on the other hand, that the circumstances and provocations were also exceptional. The number slaughtered has been computed at from twenty-four thousand to thirty thousand, which exceeds the present population of the island. A large portion of the women and children were sold into slavery; almost every house burned, all the gardens, which had been the especial pride of Scio, destroyed. By a species of reaction, the children of many that escaped have been educated in Europe, and now constitute the most enterprising of the Greek houses in London, Manchester, and the Levant. The doomed island sustained a further loss a few winters ago, when the unusual cold entirely destroyed the orange, lemon, and mastic trees, which supplied a material share of its commerce. There now seems a considerable show of activity both in the town and harbor. The Greek population is about eighteen thousand to eight hundred Turks. There was considerable disappointment at first among the Greeks at not being assigned to the new kingdom of Greece, when it was originally constituted; but it is said now that there is no tendency to excitement among them. They are very industrious, but are reckoned extremely sharp in their dealings. This seems, indeed, the common attribute of the Greek character, and it is supposed to give them no little advantage over our English competition. We set off for Smyrna before noon, and carried thither the wife and daughter of the vice-consul. Madame Vedova has lived twenty-three years at Scio, and complains wofully of its blank and unredeemed solitude. We did not arrive at Smyrna till an hour after sunset, when we made an ineffectual attempt to induce the quarantine authorities to allow the ladies to land. It required some ingenuity to accommodate them for the night. As a sort of compensation to them, the ship’s company got up an impromptu dance, with a solitary but very efficient fiddle; and any friends who may be anxious about my health would have been reassured, if they could have seen me leading off Sir Roger de Coverley, with the vice-consul’s lady.’

In Turkish/Greek waters

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1915
Michael Macdonagh,
journalist

‘New but unofficial recruiters have appeared on the scene. These are the young women who have formed what they call the “Order of the White Feather,” which they publicly and forcibly confer upon any young man in “civies” whom they come upon anywhere, and whom they think should be in khaki. [. . .] Going home in a tramcar the other night I was a witness of the presentation of white feathers. The victims were two young men who were rudely disturbed form their reading of the evening paper by the attack of three young women. “Why don’t you fellows enlist? Your King and Country want you. We don’t.” One of the girls was a pretty wench. She dishonoured one of the young men, as she thought, by sticking a white feather in his buttonhole, and a look of contempt spoiled for a moment her lovely face.’

The drama of London in WWI

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1955
John Fowles,
writer

‘This diary has suffered these last two years. It no longer - it seems to me - adequately reflects either my physical or my mental life. It does all - this period - seem something of a desert, in any case. I lack no confidence that the desert will end. I can think. I can write; I know that. But waiting-rooms are always dull.

Writing: the Greek book has been criticized by the agent’s reader - he calls it ‘shapeless, discursive’; but Paul Scott thinks it worth a trial with the publishers. I have just finished an opuscule - ‘For a Casebook’ - which I intend to try on the London Magazine and Encounter.

Meanwhile, this:; I’ve decided to keep, for a month, a ritual day-to-day account of events; what’s interesting me; what we do.’

Nature of the diarist

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1943
William Soutar,
poet

‘How snail-like the temp at which I seem to be living now - and yet my days are hurrying out of the world. I do not think any of my friends suspect as yet that I am under the sentence of death; and it will be fine if they continue for a good while yet to imagine that I have a touch of bronchitis, or something like that: when at last they know, an undefinable restraint will come between the free interchange of friendship.’

My hungry hound

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1952
Alfred Kazin,
literary critic

‘The literary profession - what a misnomer, what a horror. This very profession (of faith!) to which I entrust my life (for by that I mean my thinking) is also a mad scramble for social prestige and a job. So that at every point (but obviously most on Sunday night, before the treadmill gets me back) I oscillate between the native purity, the relative selflessness of my inner thought - and this splintery, tormented, boring, boring attempt to get things by my profession - my name on this list, my bank account full. The profession which by its incarnated incarnation the nullity of egotism, serves (how often!) only our egotism.

What a monster it is, then, this being not a writer, a thought-bearer, but a WRITER quoted on the jackets of the latest books, much sought-after by summer workshops, an object of mystery, a perpetual mode of unbelief, to the vulgar - “And do you write under your own name?” As if most us wrote for any purpose other than publicizing our own name!

No name, no writer.’

The literary profession

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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.