I have been savoring Ronald Blythe‘s The Pleasures of Diaries, a compilation of wonderful excerpts, collected by a fine writer in his own right, and one with a great ear. So many tidbits worth sharing. For example, here’s Blythe’s intro to Samuel Johnson’s diary.
Johnson’s Diary evokes compassion. Here, simply exposed, is the pathology of a virtuous and brilliant man. His Dictionary says that a diary has to be ‘an account of the transactions, accidents, and observations of every day’–which suggests something less profound than what he attempted. Yet no one heeded more the advice he gave to his friends when he urged them to keep diaries in which ‘the great thing to be recorded is the state of your mind.’ His own diary is above all the troubled record of a greatly troubled mind.
Here is an excerpt from the diary itself (Tetty, refers to the middle-aged widow whom Johnson married when he was 27, and was devoted to, somewhat to the mystification of his friends.)
18 September 1760. Resolved D. j. (with God’s aid)
To combat notions of obligation
To apply to Study.
To reclaim imagination.
To consult the resolves on Tetty’s coffin.
To rise early.
To study Religion.
To go to Church.
To drink less strong liquors.
To keep Journal.
To oppose laziness, by doing what is to be done.
Rise as early as I can.
Send for books for Hist. of war.
Put books in order.
Johnson, Goldsmith and Boswell, scheming life.