And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

8 October

1657
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

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1726
Benjamin Franklin,
politician

‘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

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1849
Edward Hodges Cree,
surgeon

‘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

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1851
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

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1862
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

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1979
Alasdair Maclean,
writer

‘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

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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, 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.