Rescued Diaries

We rescue diaries like these from skips and bonfires and look after them for the future as important items of everyone’s history.

So, the Happy Boy Harry, member of the Glories of Nature Gang in 1926, went onto become a successful man, a journalist and writer. He acquired his turn of pen whilst serving in the army during the Second World War. And spent a good part of that war convalescing in a hospital. It was here he wrote eloquently on army/ hospital life. His travels took him across India. And his vivid record of conversations, journeys, towns, hotels surely made it into his books….? This is a hilarious excerpt from his ‘mauve’ notebook: ‘Tonight at dinner (?) suddenly asks me: ‘Have you been to Paris?” I admit (?) wondering what is coming next. “This spinach”, she says, stabbing at her plate, “Whenever I see spinach I think of Paris.”‘…..
This boy’s love of nature – what he calls the Glories of Nature – runs throughout his youthful memos to self. See the next post for what happens for this lad of the land later in life – when the Second World War calls him to a different, more painful Glory.
The oldest diary in our collection! Thanks to a chance acquisition, the collection of the Great Diary Project now covers a period of almost 300 years. In a recent donation to Bishopgate Institute, we discovered a pair of small, unprepossessing volumes, which contain an account of someone’s religious activities in the years 1735 and 1736. In minute handwriting, the writer documents a number of sermons he or she attended during those years. Meticulously recorded for each sermon are the date, location, preacher, text(s), and arguments. Most of the sermons were preached by Peter Goodwin, minister at the non-conformist chapel at Ropemaker’s Alley, Moorfields, in the City of London, a congregation which later moved to nearby Aldermanbury Postern. Thanks to the Great Diary Project, and to the chance survival of this diary, this fascinating document will now be available as a source for researchers interested in the history of religion in the 18th century.
Another 18th century rescue! The diary dates to 1754. It contains a list of remedies, including one, written in ironically faded ink, ‘To Recover the Ink of Old Deeds’: ‘Take five or six galls finely powdered and pat them into a pint of Mountain Wine, & let them stand together three or four days in an appothecary’s [sic] sand heat to digest. Strike the dull part of the writing over with a plain pencil dipd [sic] in the liquor and it will recover them.’ Just to reassure you that we will not be trying this on any of the diaries in the collection.
Diaries have been kept on diets, dogs, driving, droving, digging…but this has got to be one of my favourites: BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS! The carefully crafted entries read like a bibliographic reference worthy of any dictionary of literature. The diarist who recorded his reading material between 1942 and 2005 was meticulous and mercurial : from Thatcher to the Water Babies, Disraeli to Somerset Maugham, there is a definite favouring of the classics but an occasional ‘pulp fiction’ raises its grubby little face to the diarist’s smile and praise.
Another style of diary, this time for breeding cows.
Madeira, My Dear? This lady’s detailed account of a holiday in the sun seems, on first glance, a beautifully laid out and colourful collection of your standard holiday observation All is forgiven, however, when one clocks eyes on her fabulous bikinis, her people-observations and the mysterious photographic spectre of Roland. Excerpt; ‘Maria brought us breakfast in our room (and was one of the dancing waitresses at the parties!)’
Another holiday diary! This truly fabulous example of diary flair -a joint effort – is screamingly funny, beautifully illustrated and a golden shot of nostalgia reminiscent of girlhoods’ halcyon days…sort of St Trinian’s under canvas.
And another teenage girl’s diary, this time from 1999. An excerpt; ‘I will write and write and write ‘til I feel alrite!’
Not all diaries are made to be read. This diarist switches to another language (possibly short hand).