And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

10 September

Roger Lowe,

‘I was sent for to Banferlonge to Anne Greinsworth to write, and it was a very Rany day. This day Hamblett Ashton was att Warrington buryd, being Munday before hangd att Chester for murder. The Lord preserve us from such practices and such end. Amen.’

In church, at the alehouse


Edward Jenner,
doctor and scientist

‘Visited Capt. Hamstead. His cough is still teasing - pulse 92 - expectoration scanty

T. Benzoes bistervede die - Pulv Jacob: gr iij omni nocte - Rd £6.60

Consulted by Mrs W at Stroud. She appears to labor under the secondary symptoms of Syphilis - Her legs exhibit the correct representation of Willan’s - She has ulcerated Tonsil & pains in the Joints and Knees. Rd £2.20

Maria Gayner from Alkington Work house was vaccinated with a limpid virus taken from the edge of a pustule on the 12th day (exempted . . . grate) The pustule was at the time nearly converted into a Scab. It produced no effect - Now, the same Scab diffused thro’ water would produce the effect of matter on the 8th day; therefore it must necessarily contain the early-formd virus in this concreted form.’

The father of immunology


Mary Boykin Chesnut,
wife of political aide

‘Then we went to the President’s, finding the family at supper. We sat on the white marble steps, and General Elzey told me exactly how things stood and of our immediate danger. Pickets were coming in. Men were spurring to and from the door as fast as they could ride, bringing and carrying messages and orders. Calmly General Elzey discoursed upon our present weakness and our chances for aid. After a while Mrs. Davis came out and embraced me silently. “It is dreadful,” I said. “The enemy is within forty miles of us - only forty!” “Who told you that tale?” said she. “They are within three miles of Richmond!” I went down on my knees like a stone. “You had better be quiet,” she said. “The President is ill. Women and children must not add to the trouble.” She asked me to stay all night, which I was thankful to do. [. . .] Early next morning the President came down. He was still feeble and pale from illness. Custis Lee and my husband loaded their pistols, and the President drove off.’

Chesnut’s Civil War diary


Alfred Dreyfus,

‘I am so worn out, so broken in body and soul, that I am bringing my diary to a close to-day, not knowing how long my strength will keep up or how soon my brain will give way under the strain of so much misery.

I will close it with this last prayer to the President of the Republic, in case I should succumb before seeing the curtain fall on this horrible drama:

Monsieur le President,

I take the liberty of asking you to allow this diary, which has been written day by day, to be sent to my wife. It may perhaps contain, Monsieur le President, expressions of anger and disgust relative to the most terrible conviction that has ever been pronounced against a human being, and a human being who has never forfeited his honour. I do not feel equal to the task of re-reading, of going over the horrible recital again. I now reproach nobody; every one has acted within his faculties, and as his conscience dictated. I simply declare once more that I am innocent of this abominable crime, and still ask for one thing, the same thing, that search may be made for the true culprit, the author of this abominable deed. And on the day when the light breaks, I beg that my dear wife and my dear children may receive all the pity that such a great misfortune should inspire.


History unmasks all secrets


Paul Léautaud,

‘This morning’s papers report Mallarmé’s death yesterday in his little house at Valvins. A master - to me, at any rate. When I came to know his poetry it was a revelation, prodigious, dazzling, a penetrating beam of beauty. But while it showed me verse at its greatest power and perfection, it discouraged me from attempting it, for I understood that no poetry could match his and that to follow along the same road (i.e. to imitate) would be neither dignified nor meritorious.

I think it was really due to Mallarmé that I got to know Valéry. I had seen Valéry often enough at the Mercure’s “Tuesdays”, but I had hardly spoken to him. One Tuesday, when I was on my way to the Mercure, I went into the tobacconist’s in the Rue de Seine, between the Rue Saint-Sulpice and the Rue Lobineau. Valéry was just coming out. He waited for me, and we walked together. I don’t know how he got on to Baudelaire, but I answered that there was a poet I put much higher - Mallarmé. Since then we seem to have been bound by a sort of sympathy, and we have had many talks together. This very winter he was going to take me to the Rue de Rome, but I shan’t have that pleasure now. I had been thinking of writing a Hommage au Poète with Mallarmé as the subject. The work’s still to be done.’

So I held my tongue


John Churton Collins,
writer and literary critic

‘Last night I was so calm and contented when I went to bed I thought I was out of the woods. I felt perfectly well; but, alas, morning came and I had a terrible relapse into utter depression. Better after breakfast. Now, sitting on the porch at 12 o’clock, I feel calm.’

I thought I was out of the woods


Harold Temperley,

‘Returned after my second visit to Porlock and Exmoor. Applied my military knowledge to the problem of the Doones. The existence of these freebooters cannot be denied today because parish-registers (which some of the critics do not know) mention persons as having been killed by the Doones. Critics of another sort point out that the Doone valley is not a natural fortress, but is actually defenceless, because it is relatively low, and there is no true Doone gate or waterslide as in Blackmoore’s story. But this is a shallow view - a far better defence than choosing a natural fortress was to choose a secluded valley remote from roads. Now, if examined carefully the position of the Doone valley on Exmoor is unique. The modern roads may not have existed but their prototypes in track and by path did. Now Doone valley is the centre of an area of which the four corners are Brendon, Simon’s bath [sic], Exford and Porlock common, roughly about 5 miles square. In this area there is neither road nor track at all making a through-traverse from side to side of the square. There is no other such trackless waste in all Exmoor - no other place 2 miles square in which tracks do not meet. This therefore was a perfectly ideal centre for a robber band to live. Their valley could not be seen or approached from any important road or track. It was, therefore, ideal for their purposes, because they could sally out straight across country, in any direction, and the distance of 5 miles each way gave them opportunity for detecting any advance.’

All change in the Balkans


Carl Van Vechten,
writer and photographer

‘Meade Minnegrode came in afternoon to see my Melvilles for his bibliography. Tom Beer came with him. Joe Hergesheimer turns up & has dinner with me at Leone’s (raided 2 nights ago, but we still have cocktails). Afterwards he came down to the house. Fania, who has been at lack [Marinoff]’s in the country all day, returns & Tom Beer and Ernest Boyd come in. They stay till one o’clock. I work all day on 4th chapter.’

Lunch at Algonquin


John Reith,
businessman and politician

‘Everything is now in shape for the BBC magazine and from various alternatives I chose Radio Times for the title.’

Reith on Hitler, Churchill


Earl Silas Tupper,

‘I have just $19 left to my name, no car, and apparently nothing else. With those business assets, I must take care of a fine little wife and a darling child. [. . .] I could always live, but to carry on and keep life for them worth living is a problem - it has been for a year.’

Tupper the tinkerer


Bertolt Brecht,

‘in literary articles in journals edited by marxists the concept of decadence is appearing more and more frequently of late. i discover that decadence includes me. this is naturally of great interest to me. a marxist actually needs the concept of decline. it serves to identify the decline of the ruling class in the political and economic spheres. it would be stupid for him to refuse to recognise decline in the artistic sphere. eg literature cannot exclude the great shackling of productive capacity by the capitalist means of production. i am restricting myself in the first instance to my own production. my first book of poems, the DEVOTIONS FOR THE HOME, is undoubtedly branded with the decadence of the bourgeois class. under its wealth of feeling lies a confusion of feeling. under its originality of expression lie aspects of collapse. under the richness of its subject matter there is an element of aimlessness,. the powerful language is slack. etc etc. seen in this light the subsequent SVENDBORG POEMS represent both a withdrawal and an advance. from the bourgeois point of view there has been a staggering impoverishment. isn’t it all a great deal more one-sided, less ‘organic’, cooler, ‘more self-conscious’ (in a bad sense)? let’s hope my comrades-in-arms will not let that go by default, they will say the SVENDBORG POEMS are less decadent than DEVOTIONS FOR THE HOME. however i think it is important that they should realise what the advance, such as it is, has cost. capitalism has forced us to take up arms. it has laid waste our surroundings. i no longer go off ‘to commune with nature in the woods’, but accompanied by two policemen. there is still richness, a rich choice of battlefields. there is originality, originality of problems. no question about it: literature is not blooming. but we have to beware of thinking in terms of outdated images. this notion of bloom is too one-sided. you can’t harness ideas of value, definitions of power and greatness, to an idyllic conception of organic flowering; it would be ridiculous. withdrawal and advance are not separated according to dates in the calendar. they are threads which run through individuals and works.’

The concept of decadence


Tina Brown,

‘The suspense about VF is now making me a basket case. I went to see wonderful Dr. Tom Stuttaford for sleeping pills and he was at his tweedy best. I told him about all my mixed-up longings. “Hmm,” he said. “I never did understand your infatuation with America. I tried it once and wouldn’t dream of making it a habit.” He removed his fountain pen and wrote a new prescription with an inky flourish. “Here’s my diagnosis, Tina. Buy a large house in the country, have a couple of babies, and just accept you are complicated.” In other words, just go off and be a wife.’

Tina Brown’s Vanity Fair


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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.

in diary days



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.