And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

8 October

Ralph Josselin,
priest and farmer

‘Being up, & riving logs, Mr Elliston came & told mee Dr Wright was most certainly dead, I had no warning of his sicknes, I was troubled that such a providence found mee not better imployed, and disposed, but I blesse God though I am like to loose 60l. per annum, yet yt is not much trouble.’

A boisterous yeare


Benjamin Franklin,

‘The fair wind continues still; we ran all night in our course, sounding every four hours, but can find no ground yet, nor is the water changed by all this day’s run. This afternoon we saw an Irish Lord and a bird which flying looked like a yellow duck. These, they say, are not seen far from the coast. Other signs of lands have we none. Abundance of large porpoises ran by us this afternoon, and we were followed by a shoal of small ones, leaping out of the water as they approached. Towards evening we spied a sail ahead, and spoke with her just before dark. She was bound from New York for Jamaica and left Sandy Hook yesterday about noon, from which they reckon themselves forty-five leagues distant. By this we compute that we are not above thirty leagues from our Capes, and hope to see land to-morrow.’

Founding Father Franklin


Edward Hodges Cree,

‘This pirate fleet is said to be a formidable one, commanded by an energetic Chinaman called Shap-‘ng-tsai, known to the Hong Kong people as a desperate robber. Embarked fifty Marines and fifty bluejackets, Captain Moore, [. . .]. At 9 a.m. left Hong Kong, taking steamer Phlegethon in tow, to save coals, with H. M. Brig Columbine, Captain J. Dalrymple Hay in command, as he is one day senior to Willcox. Looked into some of the numerous bays on the coast and anchored for the night at the small island Cow-kok.’

Pirate hunting expedition


Gideon Mantell,
doctor and fossil hunter

‘Went again to the Exhibition; the crowd tremendous; at the time I entered 97,000 persons were in the building; in the course of the day nearly 110,000 - one hundred and ten thousand! Vulgar, ignorant, country people; many dirty women with their infants were sitting on the seats giving suck with their breasts uncovered, beneath the lovely female figures of the sculptor. Oh! how I wished I had the power to petrify the living, and animate the marble: perhaps a time will come when this fantasy will be realised, and the human breed be succeeded by finer forms and lovelier features, than the world now dreams of.’

Animate the marble


William Sydney Clements,

‘Received an address from the town and neighbourhood of Mohill to congratulate me on my escape from assassination.’

Splinters fell on me


Sophia Tolstoy,
wife of writer

‘My diary again. It’s sad to be going back to old habits I gave up since I got married. I used to write when I felt depressed - now I suppose it’s for the same reason.

Relations with my husband have been so simple these past two weeks and I felt so happy with him; he was my diary and I had nothing to hide from him.

But ever since yesterday, when he told me he didn’t trust my love, I have been feeling terrible. I know why he doesn’t trust me, but I don’t think I shall ever be able to say or write what I really think. I always dreamt of the man I would love as a completely whole, new, pure person. In these childish dreams, which I find hard to give up, I imagined that this man would always be with me, that I would know his slightest thought and feeling, that he would love nobody but me as long as he lived, and that he, like me and unlike others, would not have to sow his wild oats before becoming a respectable person.

Since I married I have had to recognize how foolish these dreams were, yet I cannot renounce them. The whole of my husband’s past is so ghastly that I don’t think I shall ever be able to accept it.’ [Before their marriage, Tolstoy had given Sophia all his old diaries to read because he did not want to conceal anything of his past. The diaries, apparently, made a terrible impression on the 18 year old.]

He was my diary


Grove Karl Gilbert,

‘This morning we got ready early and I walked back to

meet Lt. Wheeler who with O’Sullivan had camped a mile below. With him I revisited the springs on the north shore and we named them.

A large one of the crater style with flowers we called Tufa Spring and Tufa Springs would be a good name for the group. Another larger one with a fantastic canopy of tufa is Grotto Spring.

A third is Baptismal Fountain.

A fourth (now dry) and hanging against a larger one is the Holy Water Fountain.

A dripping spring where tufa a foot from the water projects far over it. Starting our boat along we find yet other springs on both shores. Many of them voluminous. At one are some scrubby trees a foot or two in diameter but with the habit of the water willow. The leaf is small and unequally cordate [sketch omitted] the leaves on sprouts being rounder than those on old stems.

Verdure is to be seen at many points on the bank and referable to springs. It is confined however to the sandstone doubtless because the limestone is not so pervious [barometric readings omitted].

In the afternoon Lt. Wheeler and I came to a rapid where we deemed it advisable to wait for the Picture.

I climbed the bluff to Old Snuffy [one of the brown dolomite tongues in the Bright Angel Shale]. Near the water line are rocks with scolithus, loosely aggregated sandstone, Potsdam sandstone? It must be 75 feet thick on the granite [sketch and description of geologic section omitted].’

The bluff to Old Snuffy


Miles Franklin,

‘Cold cloudy day. Very tired. Pottered. Cut down another limb off the loquat tree, etc. etc. Totally alone all day, not even a wrong number on the telephone. Read some more of ‘Kon-Tiki’. Such a decent book. Perishing - had the heater again in the evening.’

Couldn’t you get married now?


Arthur C. Clarke,

‘Thinking of plot all morning, but after a long walk in the sun we ended up on the East River watching the boats. We dumped all our far-fetched ideas - now we’re settling for a Galactic Peace Corps and no blood and thunder.’

Dreamed I was a robot


Alasdair Maclean,

‘It is two o’clock in the morning and I feel very tired. But a point of terminology nags at me and I may not rest till I have said something about it.

I have been describing this record of mine, I notice, as a journal, not a diary. What is the difference?

I think that a diary functions at a lower level. It represents - or is thought to represent - a lesser species of literature. It is more gossipy and slapdash, more concerned with jottings, more practical, less obviously intended for other eyes. So we speak of Pepys’ Diaries but of Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journals and mean, I believe, to denigrate Pepys a little when we make the distinction. Yet who would exchange the former for the latter? Not I, at any rate, though I am fond of both.

I suspect that nowadays at least, there is an element of snobbishness involved in the journal-diary antithesis. Schoolgirls, archetypally, keep diaries; poets, therefore, must write journals. (It is true that Yeats wrote a diary but true also that he took the precaution of dignifying it with a fairly resounding tide: ‘Estrangment’ [sic].)

My father, old seaman, was unbothered by such nuances and called his daily notes a ‘log’. I shall stick to journal.

An antiphonal chorus


Jack Ward Thomas,
scientist and teacher

‘Assistant Secretary Jim Lyons called from his mother’s home in New Jersey at 12:30 a. m. Eastern Standard Time. His message was simple: President Clinton had signed off on my appointment as the next chief of the Forest Service earlier in the day. The next step is a call from White House attorneys to make certain there is nothing in my background that would preclude my appointment or that might prove an embarrassment to the president of the United States.

The waiting and uncertainty have come to an end. Mr. Lyons was still uncertain as to the exact mechanism of making the appointment public knowledge. I told him that whatever his intention, I was not available for the next ten days because of a long-standing speaking engagement and an elk season that begins next week. He asked if elk season was mandatory so far as my participation was concerned. I told him that I had not missed an elk-hunting season in twenty years and didn’t intend to start now.

What was not relayed to him was how badly I needed this hunting season in the high Wallowas, particularly just now. I have a real need to draw strength from the wilderness and the isolation and the majesty and the solitude. What lies just ahead - and now with certainty - is the awesome responsibility of rebuilding the Forest Service and the loss of my life’s partner and the light of my life. If I had my sweetheart with me, there is little doubt that the journey would be exciting and joyful. She would make certain of that, as she always has when I was shy and withdrawn and a little afraid. Just now, the contemplation of that journey without her fills me with trepidation.’

A bear bayed by dogs


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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.

SITE DEVISED by Paul K Lyons

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.