1 January 2021 Susannah

The Diary of ?

The Diary of ?

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been an extremely stressful year for people around the world. Did you know that writing is said to reduce stress, especially the writing of a journal? Pouring one’s thoughts and problems into a diary is a form of emotional release, it helps you organise your thoughts and it clears the brain.

Recent research in America showed that diary-writing for 15 minutes a day, three times per week, improved the health of patients. Have any of you taken to diary-writing during the Covid year?

Some famous diaries have been written during times of great personal stress. Anne Frank kept hers, in the form of letters to an imagined friend named Kitty, while in hiding in Amsterdam from the Nazis. Samuel Pepys, my favourite diarist ever, wrote almost daily throughout the Plague and the Great Fire of London. In the notebooks he kept, known as the Heiligenstadt Testament Beethoven wrote of the challenges he faced keeping his growing deafness a secret and dealing with depression, while Marie Curie’s journals have to be stored in lead-lined boxes because they were so often in the laboratory where she did research on radioactivity. I wonder what interesting journals might emerge from our Covid year?

I have not yet read The Diary of Lena Mukhina, written by a young girl living through 20th century horrors in Leningrad, but I believe it is very powerful and moving. Two English favourites of mine are The Diary of a Country Parson by James Woodforde (remarkable for its chronicles of the huge meals this 18th century parson ate) and Kilvert’s Diary by the Rev. Francis Kilvert who lived on the English/Welsh border in the Victorian era.

These days of course diaries take different technical forms – blogs and vlogs, youtube clips, etc. But if, in the best tradition, you have turned to pouring your heart and problems out into some form of journal, I hope it has reduced stress and brought you comfort.

Time will tell which diaries of 2020 will play a part in enriching world literature. Will yours? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- A Journal, https://pixy.org/5759694/
Body image credit- The diary of Lena Mukhina, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24897358-the-diary-of-lena-mukhina
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Comments (6)

  1. Margaret Debenham

    I am somewhat inclined to agree about Virginia’s novels – although I really admire (which is not quite love) To the Lighthouse, and I enjoyed Orlando. I found The Waves was much more enjoyable if I read it out loud, as it has the rhythm of poetry. Thanks for the tip about To the River – I must track it down – and the other walking England books you mentioned in the Favourites section.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I like Mrs Dalloway best of her novels. However, your comment has made me think that I really should listen to them on audio. I think I’d get far from them that way.
      My library this morning had Michelle Obama reading her book on CDs, so I have borrowed that and will listen to it soon. Something to really look forward to.

  2. Margaret Debenham

    Susannah, I do not keep a diary, and I don’t expect I ever will, but I do love reading other people’s – provided they are of the literary variety, rather than the “Caught the bus to work. Ham sandwich for lunch. Rain this afternoon. Nothing much happened” variety. My favourite diary is Virginia Woolf’s – it was a great treat when each year’s volume was published; I would immediately sit down and read right through (the volumes of her letters are equally enjoyable and stimulating). The acuteness of her observations, and the language in which she expressed, them, are just wonderful. A much more recent diary (or rather, pair of diaries) I have enjoyed are Jan Morris’s last two works, her thought diaries – In My Mind’s Eye and Thinking Again. I love the way she describes herself doing her daily thousand paces up and down the lane, singing/humming/whistling a musical accompaniment – usually something military. Lots of interesting reflections on travel, books, the way of the world – sad to think there won’t be a further volume this year.

    PS Thanks for the wonderful newsletters – a monthly treat. Best wishes for this new year.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I also love Virginia’s diaries and letters, actually far more than I love her novels. She has some fabulous and unusual turns of phrase and was so acute. Have you read ‘To The River’ by Olivia Laing? It is a walk along the river Ouse (in which poor Virginia drowned herself) and is full of references to her writings.
      I have not read the Jan Morris one you mention, which sounds excellent.
      So glad you enjoy my newsletters. I’m having fun looking into Book Addicts that I can feature each month.
      Happy New Year!

  3. John Wilson

    Thanks Susannah
    I fondly remember your lecture on Samuel Pepys and dip into it from time to time. Another favourite is The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith. ‘ Pooterish’ is now a word to describe someone snobbish and comically failing, of whom there is no shortage. I also enjoyed the diaries of Alan Clark, British politician, very right wing, besotted with Margaret Thatcher and very rude about his contemporaries. Son of my hero Kenneth Clark of Civilisation fame. Also Bridget Jones Diary was such fun, giving us the word Singleton and, sorry Susannah, making fun of Mr Darcy. Adrian Mole probably deserves a mention too. I have just taken James Woodforde’s Diary of a Country Parson from the bookshelf. It is Folio Society edition with marbled cover. Evocative of the period. I recall reading in some magazine the diary of a bookseller. I wonder if you know of it. So entertaining in its stories of his eccentric customers. Hope this is not too Pooterish. Best wishes for the New Year
    John Wilson

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I loved the Pooterish comments – thanks John, and Happy New Year.
      I have not read Alan Clark’s diaries, but like you, love Kenneth Clark! And I loved Bridget Jones Diary, though the sequel was feeble. I also really loved Shaun Bythell’s Diary of a Bookseller, but its sequeal was very poor too. Being a bookseller is obviously not an easy life.
      I hope you have a good supply of food in the fridge as you read Parson Woodforde – he makes so many mentions of food that reading the apges always makes me feel hungry. Thanks for such a rgeat list of fabulous diaries!

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