Thursday, August 09, 2012

9 August

For whatever reason, today I decided to dip into a few of the several volumes of published diaries that populate my bookshelves. Here is a sample from the last five centuries.

9 August 1668
Thence to White Hall, and thence to visit Lord Brouncker, and back to White Hall, where saw the Queen and ladies; and so, with Mr. Slingsby, to Mrs. Williams’s, thinking to dine with Lord Brouncker there, but did not, having promised my wife to come home, though here I met Knepp, to my great content. So home; and, after dinner, I took my wife and Deb. round by Hackney, and up and down to take the ayre.
The Diary Of Samuel Pepys
Pepys is one of my favourite diarists. His combination of name-dropping, scheming, womanising and living in fear of his wife always seems to give him a remarkably contemporary feel. If he had lived in these times you would have no doubt found him splashed across the celebrity magazines and probably guesting on Strictly Come Dancing. (Elizabeth) Knepp was an actress and singer Pepys was besotted with at the time.

9 August 1783
A dull warm day with frequent showers in afternoon especially. I and George and John Town share 14 hattocks in the forenoon. I spread mainer and other jobs in the afternoon.
The Diaries Of Cornelis Ashworth
Cornelius Ashworth was a small farmer who lived at Walt Royd near Halifax in the latter part of the eighteenth century. He is described as a typical small farmer and handloom weaver: the only thing that sets him aside from his contemporaries was that he kept a diary for over 30 years. It has to be said that his diaries are somewhat dull : his life being dominated by the weather, his crops and the goings on at the local chapel. I suspect that "mainer" was manure, but what on earth "hattocks" were I have no idea. Hopefully, Cornelius, George and John enjoyed them.

9 August 1823           
At 4.50, set off down the Old Bank to the library. Found Miss Pickford there, in spite of finding a note on my return home this morning to say she could not go there on account of walking with the children to Horley Green wood to botanize. Told her how untidy the children were ... they are a disagreeable, vulgar set. I told her she did not enough keep up her dignity. Spoilt everything about her.
The Secret Diaries Of Miss Anne Lister
Anne Lister was the Mistress of Shibden Hall which is just outside Halifax. She has found lasting fame due to her diaries which contained long sections written in a code which was not deciphered until a century after her death. Most of these sections (printed in italics in 1988 edition of her published diaries) related to her amorous escapades with a variety of lesbian lovers, but occasionally she would use her code to hide her rough tongue and haughty manner. No wonder poor Miss Pickford tried to avoid her.

9 August 1940
After dinner, Winston, the generals and Pound retired to the Hawtrey Room for a conference... At one moment a German raider came over the house and we all stumbled out into the garden to look. The First Sea Lord fell down first one flight of steps and then, having picked himself up disconsolately, he tumbled down another, ending in a heap on the ground where a sentry threatened him with a bayonet. He came back saying, “This is not the place for a First Sea Lord” Winston’s comment was, “Try and remember you are an Admiral of the Fleet and not a Midshipman”
The Fringes Of Power : Downing Street Diaries, John Colville
John "Jock" Colville was Assistant Private Secretary to Winston Churchill during the first part of World War II and his diaries provide a wonderful insight into the working life of Churchill during this critical period of history. The First Sea Lord referred to was Sir Dudley Pound who had a reputation for hard work and a lugubrious demeanor. It is said that his mere entry into a room made the occupants feel grave.

9 August 2012
Got up. Sunny and warm day today. Took Amy for a walk. Read a bit and wrote a blog-post. Had my lunch.
The Unpublished Diaries Of Alan Burnett


  1. Publish, and be damned!

  2. Hello Alan:
    Diaries are, as you will obviously appreciate, a wonderful social commentary of a particular time or period. They are amongst one of our favourite forms of literature, giving as they do a remarkable insight into the lives of others.

  3. These are a good sport to read! Quite the lives they led, rough tongue and all! I always enjoy reading things that contain such style and wit!

  4. Pepys is one of my favourites too, but for contrast read The Diary of a farmer's Wife, 1796-1797.

  5. A 17th century womanizer, a dull 18th century farmer, a 19th century lesbian, and a 20th century political insider; what a wonderful, eclectic mix! I looked up "hattock" and found it means a shock of grain.

  6. So interesting! I learned a lot reading your post. Hot and warm there? Here in Rome it's almost 107 degrees Fahrenheit, can you believe it? I am a new following.

  7. Fascinating. I think I might like to have met Samuel Pepys, but also Anne Lister. I bet she never dreamed that someone would try to break the code.

  8. I adore writing in the form of diaries and journals...but I'm sure you already knew that...

  9. Alan, I've been advised for years, to keep a diary. I never have, and now of course, we have blogging!

  10. I must confess, Alan, to having never read any of the diaries mentioned in this post, but they provided fascinating insights to a time long past.

  11. I love the diaries. I always inquire at book shops if they have luck so far. We have my husband Grandmothers from 1912 to 1913..It is a delightful read:)


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