19 surreylive.news NEWS & MAIL WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2020 PAST TIMES Take a Pepys into the past Who had the write stuff? MARION McMULLEN looks at a new book celebrating the great diary keepers V OLCANO Vesuvius exploding, the Great Fire of London and the horrors of war and are just some of the momentous events which diary writers have captured between the pages of their journals over the centuries. Oscar Wilde wrote in his play The Importance Of Being Earnest: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” Diaries have recorded everything from world-changing moments to personal revelations and are often a poignant record of the times. Pliny The Younger was just 18 when Vesuvius erupted in 79CE killing his adoptive father. The volcano destroyed the coastal towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum and Pliny’s account included a description of a volcanic tsunami saying: “a dense blackness was rolling up behind us, which spread itself over the ground and looked like a torrent ... the blackness of night overtook us, not that of a moonless or cloudy night, but the blackness of pent-up places which never see the light. You could hear the wailing of women, the screaming of children.” Pliny is among those featured in new book Great Diaries which looks at the world’s great diaries, journals, notebooks and letters of the last 2,000 years. Professor Kate Williams, who has written the foreword, says: “Diaries are among our greatest historical treasures – they bring a place, a person, the world to life. “They are invaluable for the historian, for the literature student, the sociologist, and the scientist. Through times of great change, upheaval, or suffering, people keep writing, to save themselves, to know that they are still present, not alone. “At its best, as Anne Frank proved, the diary reveals the triumph of the human spirit.” German-born Anne was living in Amsterdam when she given a diary on her 13th birthday in 1942 just before she and her Jewish family had to go into hiding as Hitler invaded. She wrote in the gift, “I hope I will be able to confide everything in you” and she noted her thoughts down for the next two years until the family were found by the Nazis and the writing tragically stopped. Anne, who perished with her sister Margot in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, wrote: “When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears. my spirits are revived.” Multi-talented Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci left behind more than 6,000 pages of notes and filled his daily pages with diagrams, sketches and explanatory details. Samuel Pepys’ diaries give an account of many momentous events, including the Great Fire of London Pliny the Younger gave us a first-hand account of the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum by Vesuvius (the volcano is seen here in 1944) Anne Frank spilled her thoughts and emotions onto paper up until she was sent to a concentration camp and death Leonardo da Vinci recorded his genius Queen Victoria wrote gushingly about her new husband, Prince Albert Oscar Wilde and Mae West both loved a bit of scandal Artist Frida Khalo kept a diary for 10 years He started jotting down his thoughts from about 1478 and kept his notebooks until the end of his life writing about everything from his ideas for a helicopter and a parachute, to his liking for pink tights. He wrote: “Experience has been the mistress of all those who have written well; so as mistress I will cite her in all cases.” Naval administrator Samuel Pepys lived through the Great Fire of London and a smallpox plague that killed about a quarter of the population. The Great Fire destroyed 13,000 houses, the medieval St Paul’s Cathedral and almost 90 other churches. “Poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats or clambering from one pair of stairs by the waterside to another,” wrote Pepys. He recorded, in shorthand, everything from his encounters with King Charles II to intimate details of his own marriage. He confessed to getting drunk after the king’s coronation and waking up the next morning covered in his own vomit. He wrote in 1666: “The truth is, I do indulge myself a little the more in pleasure, knowing that this is the proper age of my life to do it.” Queen Victoria began writing a journal when she was 13 and continued throughout the rest of her life. She wrote of her wedding day in 1840: “I never, NEVER spent such an evening!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert ... his excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness, I never could have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, and we kissed each other again and again! His beauty, his sweetness and gentleness, ... really how can I ever be thankful enough for such a Husband!” Mexican artist Frida Khalo kept a diary for 10 years before her early death at the age of 47. When her foot had to be amputated, she simply wrote: “Feet what do I need them for if I have wings to fly.” American film star Mae West was also in favour of recording everything in your life and advised in 1937: “Keep a diary and one day it will keep you.” Great Diaries, foreword by Kate Williams, is published by DK, £20 ■ PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER PressReader.com +1 604 278 4604 . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW
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