And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

16 January

1837
William Tayler,
servant

‘The Influenza was never known to be so bad as it is now. Seven hundred poliecemen and upwards of four thousand soldiers are ill with it about London, and many large shops and manufactorys are put to great inconveniences on account of it. I am obliged to stay within to help the sick. This is what I don’t like as I like to get a run everyday when I can.’

A wretched bad writer

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1855
Ford Madox Brown,
writer

‘Yesterday [Thomas] Seddon came back after 20 months of absence, looking thinner & genteeler than ever & in high spirits. I went with him to Kentishtown leaving my work just begun. His pictures are cruelly P.R.B.’d. I was very sorry to see he had made less than no progress. . . Hunt, he tells me, gave him no advice at all, he has been prepossessed against him I fear, it is a great pity. There is no better hearted fellow living nor a truer gentleman.’

The might of genius

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1855
John Buckley Castieau,
civil servant

‘Purchased this Diary for which I paid 10/- and considered reasonable, it being but 50 per cent over the Home cost.

Went to the Main Gaol to hear tidings of the State Prisoners, charged with Treason in taking up arms against the Government at Balaarat. The Judge remanded them for 10 days, stating that being charged with High Treason, they were entitled to that term of clear notice with copies of their indictments from the opening of the Sessions. Mr Ireland the Counsel for the Defence, stated he was prepared to proceed at once, but the Chief Justice preferred granting the priviledge allowed by the Law.

This conduct seems evidently to betray an inclination on the part of the Governt. to let the matter gradually drop, and in my opinion the men will not be tried at all.

There is a great deal of excitement in the Town, and the Gaol Authorities fearing violence have barricaded and strengthened the Entrance, as well as made a door as close to the Court as possible by which to take the prisoners too [sic] and from Trial. I remarked that people might break doors to get out, but that I hardly thought they would break them to get into the prison.

The Visiting Magistrate inspected the Gaol today. I wrote a letter to my sister at Geelong, enclosing one from our Father to her.’

Barricading the gaol

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1881
Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff,
politician

‘Again at High Elms, where my wife has been staying. Talking of the want of young people in our society she said to me to-day: “For goodness’ sake ask some one who belongs, at least, to this geological period!”

Miss Lubbock remarked to Mr. Arthur Balfour, who was sitting between her and me, that she would like to hear Disraeli’s conversation. “You needn’t do that,” he replied. “You have only to imagine a brazen mask talking his own novels.”

In the afternoon we walked up to see Darwin. He has of late been studying earthworms, and said to Lubbock, “You antiquarians ought to have great respect for them; they have done more to preserve tessellated pavements than any other agency. I have ascertained, by careful examination, that the worms on a single acre of land bring up ten tons of dry earth to the surface in a year.” ’

Good-natured books

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1894
Fridtjof Nansen,
explorer

‘The ice is quiet to-day. Does longing stupefy one, or does it wear itself out and turn at last into stolidity? Oh that burning longing night and day were happiness! But now its fire has turned to ice. Why does home seem so far away? It is one’s all; life without it is so empty, so empty - nothing but dead emptiness. Is it the restlessness of spring that is beginning to come over one, the desire for action, for something different from this indolent, enervating life? Is the soul of man nothing but a succession of moods and feelings, shifting as incalculably as the changing winds? Perhaps my brain is over-tired; day and night my thoughts have turned on the one point, the possibility of reaching the Pole and getting home. Perhaps it is rest I need - to sleep, sleep! Am I afraid of venturing my life? No, it cannot be that. But what else, then, can be keeping me back? Perhaps a secret doubt of the practicability of the plan. My mind is confused; the whole thing has got into a tangle; I am a riddle to myself. I am worn out, and yet I do not feel any special tiredness. Is it perhaps because I sat up reading last night? Everything around is emptiness, and my brain is a blank. I look at the home pictures and am moved by them in a curious, dull way; I look into the future, and feel as if it does not much matter to me whether I get home in the autumn of this year or next. So long as I get home in the end, a year or two seem almost nothing. I have never thought this before. I have no inclination to read, nor to draw, nor to do anything else whatever. Folly! Shall I try a few pages of Schopenhauer? No, I will go to bed, though I am not sleepy. Perhaps, if the truth were known, I am longing now more than ever. The only thing that helps me is writing, trying to express myself on these pages, and then looking at myself, as it were, from the outside. Yes, man’s life is nothing but a succession of moods, half memory and half hope.’

Siberian driftwood cannot lie

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1912
Robert Falcon Scott,
explorer

‘[. . .] Half an hour later he detected a black speck ahead. Soon we knew that this could not be a natural snow feature. We marched on, found that it was a black flag tied to a sledge bearer; near by the remains of a camp; sledge tracks and ski tracks going and coming and the clear trace of dogs’ paws - many dogs. This told us the whole story. The Norwegians have forestalled us and are first at the Pole. It is a terrible disappointment, and I am very sorry for my loyal com- panions. Many thoughts come and much discussion have we had. To-morrow we must march on to the Pole and then hasten home with all the speed we can compass. All the day dreams must go; it will be a wearisome return. [. . .]’

Race to the South Pole

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1915
Aleister Crowley,
writer and priest

‘Weather like a fine day in May. Light of gas stove. Margaret Pitcher. A young pretty-stupid wide-mouthed flat-faced slim-bodied harlotry. Fair hair. Fine fat juicy Yoni. Object: Money. I invoked Ic-zod-heh-ca at the same time, thinking thus to propitiate the gnomes [earth elementals who preside over hidden treasure]. And I offer him a portion of the Sacrament. The ceremony was not good, as the girl was even more concentrated than I on the object of the Operation. But the Elixir [semen] was copious, well-formed, and of very pleasing quality. It was a fairly orgiastic rite, considering all.’

Do what thou wilt

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1916
David Lindsay,
politician

‘We have now to unload from the ambulance train on its return from Remy sding. As the train doesn’t draw up on the platform we have to walk out along the rails - getting patients out is difficult, and with stretcher cases decidedly dangerous - for when it is dark one stumbles over points, wires and so forth and trains pass us, jamb us up and generally make the job burdensome to all concerned.

For folly and tactlessness commend me to GHQ. They have just issued as a order to be communicated to troops, the reprint of a lengthy leading article which appeared in the New York Tribune on 28 October 1915. The article is clear and has its good points - but it is based on the irremediable optimism which has haunted our path throughout and contains the following sentence; ‘The decisive part of the war so far as the battlefield is concerned is now over for Germany!’ The three months which have elapsed since this observation have marked the final cataclysm of Serbia and Montenegro, our defeats in Mesopotamia and our withdrawal from the Gallipoli peninsula, where we have not left a single man, according to Asquith’s boast - though he forgot to add a reference to 50,000 corpses. One wonders what may have been the object of GHQ in circulating this document. Is it to hearten the troops, to educate us, to be cynical and sarcastic at our expense?

Bathed with an RFC man who told me that last week we accounted for less than six German aeroplanes. Can this be true? For Haig has vouchsafed us nothing but bad news about our airmen, yet my informant was a sober slow thinking individual who seemed quite certain of his facts. Why is the RFC unpopular? Are we jealous of their high pay and of their beautifullv tailored costume, of their waists, their caps, their short jackets, and of the swank which these assets seem to produce? No unit ‘keeps itself to itself’ more than the RFC and I must admit that they consort as little as possible with the vulgus of the British Army. The corps is fashionable - all are heroes in the eyes of the novelty-loving public, yet the percentage who actually do the flying is quite small.’

Congealed personalities

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1945
Archie Edmiston Roy,
astronomer and professor

‘I am home. I arrived here yesterday at five, and even now, on Tuesday evening, I find it hard to believe that I am awake. Bridge of Weir seems to be a dream, though I shall never forget it or the people I met there.

Before I left, I had a long talk with the Chief. He was very kind, wanting to know my plans for the future. I told him I wanted to go back to study Maths, Science and kindred subjects. I did not tell him I meant to devote my life to astronautics. I wanted him to let me home, not send for a mental specialist.’

Astronautics is my life

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2009
Kim Dae-jung,
politician

‘All dictators in history think that they alone will not follow the same path as those previous if they prepare well enough, but in the end, they walk the same path or are subject to history’s harsh judgment.’

Believing in history

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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, several times a week. Now over ten years old, The Diary Review is the secondary source for the extracts in this online anthology.