And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

14 September

William Lambarde,

‘Mungra Russel, a Scot, charged to beget a woman child upon Rebecca Gore of East Mailing, was by me sent to the gaol for not finding sureties for his good behavior and appearance, etc. Send for old Gore, her father, etc. He is escaped. Send for James Dowle, the borsholder.’

Virtuous William Lambarde


John Evelyn,

‘Dined with Sir Stephen Fox, who proposed to me the purchasing of Chelsea College, which his Majesty had sometime since given to our Society, and would now purchase it again to build a hospital; or infirmary for soldiers there, in which he desired my assistance as one of the Council of the Royal Society.’

A most excellent person


Thomas Hearne,

‘I was told last night that in the great fire at London was burnt a MS. Bible curiously illuminated, like the historical part of the Bible in Bodley’s archives, and that ’twas valued at 1500 libs.’

Remarks and collections


John Scott,

‘I have had a picture painted by Stewart, and lost a fourth front tooth - it is time I should learn to keep my mouth shut, and learn gravity and discretion of speech, which I hitherto never yet practised; temperance, and eyes ever watchful, would be of use.’

At war with every difficulty


John Marrett,

‘fair - The funeral of Mrs Marrett. Ministers Revd Messrs. Clark, Stone Dr. Cummings Dr. Osgood, Fisk, Adams - A very large collection of People. The procession reachd from meeting house into the Burying Yard & not all went. The whole conducted with Great Decency and propriety. My people exceedingly Kind and helpful. They propose to defray the funeral Charges.’

Ye largest Funeral


Francis Rawdon-Hastings,

‘Rode out immediately after gun-fire. I observed great numbers of the date-palm, And casually asked if the dates were good. It was answered that the trees here never produced any fruit. Can this be owing to the ignorance of the natives that male palms must be planted among the others to make the latter fruitful? I have spoken on the subject with several of the natives in the course of the morning, as well as with some of the oldest white inhabitants, and none of them had a notion that male palms were requisite for the fecundity of the date-tree. As all the plantations on the Choultry plain have been made within these thirty years, and there is no tree of spontaneous growth in that tract, it is possible that it may have been thought unadvisable to plant a tree which had been remarked as never yielding fruit. The rendering the date-trees in the vicinage of Madras prolific would be a great benefit to numbers of the lower classes; therefore I shall solicit Governor Farquhar to forward to Madras some young male palms from the botanic garden at the Isle of France. The dates which are now consumed in considerable quantity at Madras are all imported from Bussorah.’

Meeting lionesses


Lytton Strachey,

‘Paris. Hotel Foyot. Yes, here I am back again - this time at Foyot’s once more, as I felt I could hardly stand being on the other side of the river. It was sad leaving Nancy, which was at its brightest and best at midday when I departed. Farewell! Farewell! - To the spacious Place and all the gilding - to the arches - to the Pépinière. Farewell to the Grand - under whose roof, I discovered Marie Antoinette lodged on her way from Vienna to Paris to marry the Dauphin - Farewell to the Cafe Stanislas, and its low square room, so bright and so full of business-like hospitality, with Madame enthroned aloft, as severe and dominating as Ibsen. And farewell to the Cafe of the Trio, screeching still no doubt at this very moment, while the Italianate garçon expatiates forever upon his irremediably dilapidated loves. It is cold here, though not altogether sunless. I’ve been all over the place buying tickets and trying feebly to rescue my lost shirts from the Berkeley. Dinner here - a good plain one. The waiters as ever. I suppose, by dint of keeping the windows tightly shut, I shall sleep in this noisy blue room. It seems rather absurd to be sitting at 10 o’clock, alone, with nothing but a solitary bed before me, in the middle of this frantic town. But I simply don’t know where I could go or what I could do. I don’t understand Montparnasse. I’ve no idea how or in what direction I could be improper. No! Solitude and sleep! That’s all I’m fit for at the moment. Farewell, Nancy, farewell!’

By way of a postscript, here are a few paragraphs I wrote about Strachey and his re-invention of biography for my essay The Role of Diaries in the Development of Literary Biography (published in A Companion to Literary Biography, Wiley, 2018)

‘While the art of literary biography had been languishing through the nineteenth century, the art of keeping a diary, I would suggest, had risen to great heights: writers and other artists had been experimenting with, and had expanded the boundaries of, life writing as far as it might go in revealing the self. There are two separate drivers of why this increasingly bountiful supply of diaries might have eventually contributed to a regeneration of biography itself: first, it began to provide writers with significant and important source material that could open up the inner lives of their subjects as had rarely been possible before; and, second, if the subject’s own work was already offering fruitful self-analysis, then the biographer was being challenged to offer something new, different on the ‘life.’

Considering the contrast between what information individuals were beginning to reveal about themselves in diaries, and what biographers were managing in their tomes, it is no wonder that Lytton Strachey (1918), in his ground-breaking Eminent Victorians, was able to claim: “The art of biography seems to have fallen on evil times in England.”

There is no evidence in Holroyd’s biography that [Strachey] was especially interested in diaries as a literary form, or as an important catalyst or source for Eminent Victorians. Nevertheless, all four of his subjects [in that book] kept diaries at some point in their lives, and, more importantly, all the diaries appear to have been written with elements of this developing trend toward revealing the inner life. Of Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, Strachey writes: “He kept a diary, in which he recorded his delinquencies, and they were many.” With illness his diary grew more elaborate than ever, Strachey says, and he returns to the diary, occasionally to dip into, what he calls, his secret thoughts. Arthur Ponsonby, a few years later, would rate Manning’s diaries highly, concluding that they show him “to be an ordinary human being, struggling sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully with the temptations and weaknesses which all flesh is heir to.” Strachey’s next subject, Florence Nightingale, took out her diary, we are told, and “poured into it the agitations of her soul”; and of Thomas Arnold we learn his diary was “a private memorandum of his intimate communing with the Almighty.” Although Strachey himself barely refers to the diaries of General Gordon, his fourth subject, they were certainly available to him - and the editor of Gordon’s diaries (Hake 1885) notes how “each succeeding page brings you to a closer intimacy.”

Eminent Victorians was widely praised for its wit and irreverence (Bernard Russell, laughing out loud in his prison cell, “devoured it with great delight” calling it “brilliant, delicious, exquisitely civilised”, Griffin 2001), and for energetically deflating Victorian pretensions. I would argue, thus, that both ‘drivers’ mentioned above underpinned Strachey’s achievement. First, the intimate self-knowledge revealed in his subjects’ diaries may well have provided the ammunition to shoot them down. And, second, the novelty of keeping the biographies short, and elucidating “certain fragments of the truth which took my fancy and lay to my hand” - i.e. with wit and irreverence - demonstrates the impulse to novelty.’

Strachey's new biography


Louisa Alcott,

‘Mr Parker Pillsbury came, and we talked about the poor slaves. I had a music lesson with Miss F. I hate her, she is so fussy. I ran in the wind and played be a horse, and had a lovely time in the woods with Anna and Lizzie. We were fairies, and made gowns and paper wings. I “flied” the highest of all. In the evening they talked about travelling. I thought about Father going to England, [. . .]

It rained when I went to bed, and made a pretty noise on the roof.’

I flied the highest


Sigmund Freud,

‘Anna at Mother’s burial’

Anna with Gestapo


Hugh Casson,
architect and designer

‘Are you the cultural delegation?’ The flight clerk at London Airport looks up from his papers. ‘Mind you, I am only guessing.’ What else indeed could we be? Culture is written all over us. . .’

[Casson then describes the other members of the delegation naming them by their profession, a geologist, a poet, a painter, a philosopher.]

‘Myself, the architect, duffle-coated, sharp-nosed, straggly-haired.’

‘None of us, I’m sure, is certain of any motive for going except that of curiosity. We are all aware that a guest - even at the house of his dearest friend - is always a prisoner and that beyond the Iron Curtain there are no bystanders - only players, and that even a decision not to play is a commitment in itself. Yet none of us hesitated to accept the invitation - who indeed would have?’

Red Lacquer Days


Witold Gombrowicz,


Now the measuring - the counting, deliberations - arguments.

I want Jarema’s wall hanging with its deep and juicy juxtapositions of black-green-ruddy texture to stand in the hall with its oak paneling, the counterpart to the goldish red tapisserie of Maria Sperling, saturated with a black net of rhythms . . . and hanging there, at the end of the suite of rooms, on the wall of my study.

An indistinct mulatto at the bottom.

And he is a maniac, maniac, maniac!

It never in my life occurred to me to have a son. And actually it is a matter of real indifference to me whether legitimate or illegitimate. My spiritual development, my entire intellectual development, were of the kind that today I am beyond the orbit of this dilemma. And the fact that some half-mulatto shows up on my doorstep with a tender “daddy” . . . from where, how, why?. . . who cares, I could get used to the idea in the end, get accustomed to it. But as far as blackmail. . .

Who gave him money for the trip from Brazil? And these constant about-faces, tricks, pirouettes with the nomenclature, with the name, what for? To shock? To stun, to weaken? Is he counting on being able to make my head spin with his multiple-name dance of a half-breed, with this dance of a warring Apache, he, the supposed (because even this is not certain) son of an indistinct mulatto, conceived of an accidental night, by way of passing, driving by, of a hotel night, which has dropped into the night of forgetfulness. . . I know nothing. . . I don’t remember.

Out of the empty blackness comes a son!

I bought Louis Philippe armchairs, have to reupholster them, in dark green.’

Dark as soaring pine


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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.

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.