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Unpublished London Diaries. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 2003.

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The London Record Society was founded to stimulate interest in historical documents relating to London by publishing both scholarly editions of important texts and lists of relevant primary sources. The present volume falls within the latter category. It contains a list of eight hundred and eighty-three unpublished diaries, with an index to their writers and to their general subject content. A second checklist of two hundred and forty-four published diaries follows, indexed by writer and editor. The compilation work was undertaken over several years, as part of the editor's duties at the Centre for Metropolitan History, a section of the University of London's Institute of Historical Research. The checklist of manuscripts endeavours to provide general guidance concerning the contents of each diary, but space does not permit many quotations from the diaries within the list itself. Instead, this introduction will give some indication of the type of material to be found in the original documents. This is both varied and rewarding for the historian.

In a city of London's complexity and size, it can be difficult to pinpoint the experience of the individual at a specific period. Diaries, however, represent a valuable approach into this elusive world, presenting unique snapshots of life in the city at different times and at varying social levels. Diarists may concentrate on great events or on the comparative trivia of their everyday round, but they all convey some genuine flavour of London life that is hard to find in other sources. Diaries of any period can make gripping reading, reflecting the writer's personality as well as the atmosphere of his times. Events may unfold inexorably day by day, their likely outcome often clearer to the modern reader than to the writer, who was probably less aware of an emerging pattern. Such diaries represent core material for the biographer, but they can be valuable to any historian. The minutiae of personal routines may yield detailed information about the practicalities of daily life too trivial to mention in more 'serious' writing, as well as giving insights into attitudes, expectations and behaviour in different social milieux. High politics to housework, childbirth to deathbeds, burglaries to bowel movements, all are recorded by diarists in this checklist. The editor hopes that it will point all those interested in London history to the great range of underused, as yet unpublished diary material available in collections throughout this country and abroad.

Compiling the checklist

Finding the diaries for this checklist was an intriguing, rewarding and sometimes frustrating process. Like most similar projects, it took longer than originally planned. Valuable diaries are sure to have been missed, but one cannot search for ever. If readers of this collection will be kind enough to suggest additions and corrections, the editor will gladly note them for a supplement.

Bibliographies of diaries provided the starting point for this compilation. William Matthew's British Diaries (1950), J S Batts's British Manuscript Diaries of the Nineteenth Century (1976), C A Huff's British Women's Diaries (1985) and others noted in the bibliography all contain relevant items. Some of these titles are now quite old, and the diary locations they listed have often changed, especially if the manuscripts were then in private hands. Many of these are now on deposit in record offices, but others have effectively disappeared. The National Register of Archives' online indexes have been indispensable ( as have the detailed lists in their searchroom. Repository catalogues, whether paper or online, in the UK and abroad, have also yielded many references, and in passing the editor became a connoisseur of terse archival descriptions. Who can resist the weary tone of 'Journal of several shooting parties over various Scottish moors' or the more alluring 'Travel journal of a young governess from Rochester to Germany ... on the way her ship is captured by French privateers'?

As 'diary' or 'journal' is not usually an archival search term, it is necessary to look among groups of personal papers, whether of families or individuals, in quest of these items. Sometimes they are catalogued in the 'miscellaneous' category, always a fascinating assortment of oddments and unexpected treasures in repository lists. Is there a difference between diaries and journals? When William Matthews, the doyen of diary bibliographers, was starting his work, he attempted to differentiate between the two. He soon admitted defeat, and the checklist follows his distinguished lead in this matter. Journals are diaries for present purposes, their writers used the terms interchangeably.

The format of the diaries examined varied considerably. Some were written in notebooks, ruled or unruled, occasionally bound up later. Printed diaries came on the market in the late eighteenth century. Many diarists adopted them and tailored their daily entry to fit the space provided. Some people preferred the freedom of the open page, writing long entries for some days and much shorter ones for others. Additional evidence can often be gathered from the diarist's choice of format, page layout and regular abbreviations. Handwriting too – varying with tiredness, emotional state, illness and increasing age – can add to the overall impression of the writer's personality and character. Typescript diaries, and those on computer disk, give fewer of these extra clues. Some diarists record their daily doings on audio tape – the politician Tony Benn is a prime example.

The editor looked for personal diaries containing material about London, whether by residents or a visitor, the sort of diaries that convey a flavour of London life. The entries were written up daily, or within a short time of the events they describe, while still fresh and immediate in the writer's mind. Memoirs written later have been excluded. It was not possible to examine nearly nine hundred diaries personally, though the editor saw many of those held by libraries and record offices in the London area. For the rest, she relied on catalogues and lists that vary in the quantity of detail provided. It can be hard to tell from a repository list how much time a non-resident diarist actually spent in the capital. Among the papers of county families, for example, there are many diaries that cover life at the country house and foreign travel, but also record regular visits to London for the 'season'. In other cases a provincial diarist may make frequent visits to the capital for business or legal meetings, medical treatment, family events or merely for shopping. The editor has tried to indicate the dates of the London visits within the wider coverage.

Purely 'work' diaries have not been included – like those of the blacksmith Edward Keyte (WCA Acc 701), or Alfred Kisch, Medical Officer to the Jews' Orphan Asylum, (Wellcome MS 3116) – interesting though they are, because the project has concentrated on personal, social material. It was tempting to make an exception here and there – a purely farming diary from Ruislip in 1829 (LMA Acc 538/1/8/11) contains the laconic but intriguing entry 'The Bald Horse went Mad and was shot by Wm Larch' – but its inclusion could not be justified on that alone. There is work content in many of the diaries, of course – like the cabinet-maker Job Knight (200): 'Rose in better health & spirits after breakfasting at home took my usual walk to St Paul's, my drawing approved by the Junior partner...', but interspersed with domestic and social affairs. Wholly spiritual diaries are also excluded, as well as very brief engagement diaries that only note dentists' appointments and the like. Just occasionally, this type can disgorge intriguing snippets such as this hint of an uncomfortable Christmas found in an almost empty, and anonymous, diary for 1939 (MoL Almanacks/D2): '26 Dec. 1938 Rushed to Hospital with sharp bone in my throat'. 27 Dec. 'X-rayed. Bone out', but not enough to warrant an entry in the list.

For checklist purposes, London encompasses what is now thought of as 'Greater London', thereby admitting diarists such as Philadelphia Lee (114) of Totteridge, and Rebecca Shaen (141) of Walthamstow, then comparatively rural, as well as central Londoners. Some of the diarists living on the outskirts of London regularly came in to the centre for work and pleasure. H Longman (275) of Sheepcote Farm, Harrow, nicely combined country and city interests one day in 1834: 'Horses at plough. Went to see the ruins of the Houses of Parliament. Took two pigs to Mr Sommers...'

All bibliographical projects relating to London soon encounter the same basic problem. London has been the nation's capital for many centuries. Much that happens there relates to national, rather than London history. It can be difficult, for example, to extricate political and financial matters from personal and local material, especially in the diaries of statesmen, industrialists and financiers. Diaries that are entirely political or parliamentary have been excluded, though the distinction is sometimes hard to make. If they definitely contain some social, domestic and personal content – like those of Sir John Hobhouse (169), or Sir James Stephen (330), they have been included.

The diarists

There are many psychological theories about diary-keeping. Some see diarists as self-centred egoists whose own activities assume supreme importance. Others interpret the diary as a recurring 'cry for help' in an indifferent or hostile world. More prosaically, diarists often write regular entries simply as a defence against a fallible memory. There are probably as many reasons for diary-keeping as there are diary-writers. Occasionally the diarist will specify why he or she has decided to begin. William Cooper (105), an eighteenth century medical student, noted '...the intention of this Diary is as a mirror to shew me my transactions, so that I may be able to improve my Time to the greatest advantage...'. Canon Hall (491) sets out to make a record of his life 'for the benefit or amusement of my children'. The costume historian, John Nevinson (636) began writing at school, in 1923, explaining that the diary would be a 'safety-valve to my passing emotions', and vowing to re-read it in the future 'when I shall be able to form a better opinion of the past'. He stuck to that resolution, and his later comments, annotating his diaries in 1943 and again in 1973, make an interesting contrast. Whatever the original reason for starting a diary, once the habit is established many writers plough on indefinitely. The checklist contains some long-running examples. Norris Purslow (21) wrote from 1690 to 1737, John Dawson (39) from 1722 to 1763. Robert Ramsay's diary (495) spanned 1869–1951 – though he did not reach London until 1882 – and Anthony Heap (640) kept his from 1928 to 1985, Alan Withington (646) from 1931–98.

The diary habit does not 'take' in all cases. There are many apparently short-lived diaries in the checklist, though possibly earlier and later volumes have been lost. John Pritt Harley (397) was clearly a creature of habit. It seems unlikely that he embarked on diary-keeping for the first time at the age of seventy, but his volume for 1854 is the only one known to survive. In other cases the new diarist simply loses impetus, though most last longer than Sarah Mence (Wigan AS EHC 44) who gave up after one page in 1840. This waning of enthusiasm is particularly noticeable a century later, when a considerable number of people began a diary in 1939 to record the momentous outbreak of the Second World War. Some were writing at the suggestion of the Mass-Observation organisation, others wrote independently, but a large proportion of them appear to have become bored during the 'phoney war' and abandoned the diary habit for lack of dramatic developments to write about. Ironically, those who persevered are of particular interest to the modern reader precisely because they wrote about the ordinary difficulties of daily life as the war progressed – lack of sleep because of air raids, reactions to transport disruption, evacuation, rationing, refugees, overseas troops – rather than regurgitating the progress of the military campaign as reported in their daily newspapers.

The proportion of London residents to visitors in this checklist is roughly 8:2. The residents vary widely. Some are Londoners born and bred, like Georgiana Keate (122) and Andrew Tait (539), others have migrated to London at some stage in life, like Samuel Kevan (136) who originally came from Wigtown. The visitors are similarly varied. There are regular visitors, who come to see relations, like George Pegler (353) or to do the season, like the Marchioness of Huntly (316). There are the once-in-a-lifetime visitors like Betsy Barrett (224) in 1824, who did not expect to return: 'Breakfasted and was quite out of spirits and left London at two in the afternoon never I fear to revisite again'.

Big events, like the Great Exhibition in 1851, brought more once-in-a-lifetime visitors. Emigrants from other parts of the country often started their adventurous journey with a stay in London before embarking for Canada, Australia or New Zealand. Services personnel in both World Wars, wherever they were stationed in the UK, liked to spend their leave in London, their diaries mixing service life with details of their amusements while off duty in town. Among them were many of the overseas visitors listed in the index, a category making up 40 per cent of the total of visitors' diaries in the checklist. Their insights into London life can be of especial interest. Outsiders often describe what London residents thought too commonplace for comment, like the gloom of a London Sunday experienced by the Swedish visitor Georg Wallin (35) in 1710: '...on Sundays you don't travel by carriage or boat, because everything is then so quiet, that if London on other days is a noisy world, it is then like a holy Jerusalem. The same is true for all of England, yes it is impossible to get something to eat outside your house, because all the eating houses and taverns are closed, and if good friends hadn't invited me home, I would have had to make every Sunday a day of fasting. You cannot hear any singing, music or playing, because such things are, regardless of the occasion, prohibited and any violation will be heavily punished.'

Out of town diarists made a dutiful tour of the tourist sights of London, often shown round by the friends and relations they were staying with, or using guide books. Unlike some, Wallin (35) sensibly decided not to regurgitate the guide book in his diary: 'Since I have found everything thoroughly described in the New View of London it seems more a burden than a necessity to go through every detail'. Other aspects of the tourist experience are detailed by diarists. Joseph Hékékyan Bey (244) had trouble finding a hotel room in 1862: 'The Grosvenor was full, and after going the round of several hotels which were all full on account of their intrinsic worth in comfort and moderate charges we found the Queen's Hotel in Cork Street in which we found plenty of room, I suppose from the comparative low scale of its material resources and exorbitant charges. While I reposed I sent my wife and son to be driven in a hired carriage in the parks and the principal streets'. As well as seeing the Tower, St Paul's, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament and the museums, those who were in town in the autumn were usually taken to the Lord Mayor's Show, like Betty Fothergill (77) in 1769 and Elizabeth Huxtable (199) in 1818, and to any big public celebrations that coincided with their stay.

National events of all kinds elicited diary comments and description. John Wilkes (80) was in London during the Gordon riots in 1780: 'Attended the examination at Guildhall. In the Chamberlain's Office Charles Bird apprentice to John Lomas, Tallow-Chandler in Widgcombe Street, now in Clerkenwell Bridewell accused of setting fire to Lord Mansfield's House by Samuel Masters apprentice to Anthony Hook, Carver & Gilder, in Widgcombe Street. The father of Samuel Masters is Wm Masters at the King of Prussia's Head in John Street, Golden Square'. Robert Lee (388) watched a demonstration in favour of the Reform Bill in 1867: 'About three or half-past in the afternoon I left home with X [sic] to walk down to Eaton Place. We went through the Albany and found both sides of Piccadilly crowded with people. There were carts, omnibuses & carriages moving slowly along the road but no people in the road. I proposed to go into Pall Mall & across the Green Park to avoid the Crowd. On reaching P. Mall the procession had commenced and it was impossible to cross it. The men were not badly dressed. They walked I think 6 abreast and at a rapid pace. At intervals a band or banner passed. Occasionally there was a suppressed shout. We turned up St James Street and saw the club windows filled with the members looking out...' Monoroma Bose (501), an Indian student, recorded her horror at a terrorist attack in 1884: '...A few days ago a part of Victoria Station was blown up by dynamite, & since then another plot has been discovered to blow up Charing Cross & Paddington in the same way – what wicked diabolical men they must be who form such plots'. Nine years later Andrew Tait (539) was similarly agog: 'What d'you think has happened? The post office at New Cross, into which I have been scores of times, has been blown up by ANARCHISTS! Yes, all the front blown out and the place set on fire. Luckily no one was passing and the shop was shut for the night. The fire was put out and the letters saved with the exception of 4. The bomb was only in a cardboard case but for its size exceedingly destructive. Excitement reigns throughout New Cross...'

Local calamities were of particular appeal to diarists. In 1739 Stephen Monteage (46) wrote: 'This night about 10 a fire broke out at a Sugar Bakers near Colledge Hill which burnt verry furiously several hours, I pray God comfort the Afflicted and preserve us from the like Calamity. I hear it began at the Sugar House of Messrs Kidd and Harbin in Brickhill Lane, Thames Street...'. Elizabeth Elphinstone's children had a lucky escape on a day out from Enfield in 1801 (128): 'A singular and Awful circumstance marked this day. Elizth Willm & Jno went to see Waltham & soon after they left it in about 20 minutes the Powder Mills there Blew up with a tremendous Report which shook the Earth here – the belief it had happened on the very spot they had visited – the strange chance that had made them be there that day & the supposition of their narrow & Providential escape impressed my thoughts the whole Night'.

Subject-matter in the diaries revolves around domestic, social and working routines. These could vary considerably between individuals, but apart from that differs little between male and female diarists. It is sometimes assumed that more women than men kept diaries. The evidence of this checklist indicates otherwise, with the proportion of men to women diarists at 6:4. But children wrote diaries, too. In 1789 W Hugh Burgess (108), a St Marylebone schoolboy, recorded a family outing: 'We five dined at Captain Pouncies. After went in his coach to Deptford on board a Ship. I was sick riding in the Coach. Drank tea on board home at 9 o'clock, wet through'. There is the sad case of Raleigh Trevelyan (176) in 1813 – unhappy at school in Brentford, and then increasingly ill until his death the next year. Seven-year-old Quaker Anne Capper (225) began her beautifully written copperplate diary in 1824, with entries such as: 'At Tottenham Meeting this morning, we attended the marriage of Henry Cox and Harriet Cumine. I wore my pattens', and F S Girdlestone (552), a fifteen-year-old chorister at St Paul's in the year of Queen Victoria's Jubilee voiced a complaint still familiar on public occasions: 'Everything is now 'Jubilee'. Men in the street sell the ordinary penny toys as Jubilee toys'. From the later twentieth century come three Ealing schoolchildren who wrote about their life on Census Day in 1971. Diane Wong (883) and her family visited the West End. 'We went to Oxford Street and parked in one of the side streets. My father and two brothers walked down to Bayswater Road and looked at the paintings on display. My mother and I looked at the shop windows in Oxford Street. Most of the fashion was hot-pants and suede boots and shoes... afterwards we walked down Oxford Street to the Lyons Food Hall. Inside there are 6 different restaurants...'.

Children's diaries comprise a mere 3 per cent of the total here, but we also find glimpses of children through adult eyes in the diaries. In 1672 the Earl of Anglesey (13) mourned the death of his young granddaughter from smallpox: '... I went to Lincolne's Inn to church about 9 of the clock after I was gone she sweetly slept in the Lord... The 28th of this month she would have been 17 months old being borne Jan 28 about 5 in the evening... The child was buryed at 10 of the clock at night in St Martins chancell... Wrote to my son and comforted my daughter'. And in 1874 Robert Cust's son Robbie was causing him great concern. The boy was unhappy at Eton, where he felt bullied, and furthermore he was nervous of learning to ride, unlike his sisters. 'I took the Children to the Riding School. Here another malefication assailed me; the Girls galloped round and round beautifully – but Robbie refused to go out of walking pace – flung himself or was flung from the horse, and then made a frightful scene... However, learn to ride he must' (440). Childbirth also features in diaries. In 1885 Lady Avebury (503) blamed the death of General Gordon for the unexpectedly early arrival of her baby in 1885: 'Baby born at 4.30 am. I began to feel ill about 10 o'clock. I had gone to bed at 9 & fast asleep when Gerty came in & told me Gordon was killed. I suppose it excited me. Luckily my nurse was in the house'.

The social origins of the majority of diarists in the checklist are predictably upper and middle class, though there are some working class examples. It is impossible to estimate the scale of working class diary-keeping. Fewer of these diaries survive, but that may be the result of home circumstances rather than a paucity of diarists. Upper and middle class families were perhaps more likely to have attics or other permanent storage space to which such family souvenirs could safely be relegated. Reading those working-class diaries that are still available gives one no sense that the writer thought him or herself in any way unusual to be keeping a diary. Among the examples here are George Jupp (361), an agricultural labourer on his way to New Zealand, Eli Rose (545), a builder's labourer working on mansion flats in Bloomsbury, and two servants – Thomas, a footman (292) and James Palmer (433), a coachman. The rest are mainly to be found among the diarists of the Second World War period.

As might be anticipated, the professional classes are well-represented among the diarists. Of the twenty-seven doctors' diaries listed, ranging from James Petiver in 1688 (19) to a medical student writing for Mass-Observation in 1943 (846), some of the most interesting are those of Thomas Silvester, founder of Clapham General Dispensary (320) and Henry Carter, of St George's Hospital (338). William Cooper (145) also provides a useful mixture of work and leisure: 'Heard an excellent sermon by Mr Winter in the morning and went in the afternoon to see Mr Nixon's leg'.

Churchgoing is commented on with great regularity in the diaries – 'A fine morning after a frost. Went to the Lock Chapel in the morning. Heard an excellent sermon by Dr Thorpe' wrote Charles De Coetlogon (189), in 1828, noting that he gave a shilling for the collection. The clergy themselves provide over forty of the items listed here. Dan Greatorex (365) was an energetic cleric employed by the Thames Church Mission in the 1850s, travelling about on their ship the Swan, visiting seamen. His very full diary details other activities too, as varied as attending services at the Lock Chapel, dining at Simpson's in the Strand, and seeing over the cable-laying ship, the Agamemnon. Canon Hall (491), of St Paul's, mixed in grander circles in 1892: 'Preached at S Paul's Cathedral. Administered Holy Communion to the Duke of Cambridge and the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz'. Next day he 'lunched with Archdeacon Sinclair, & met the Duchess of Buckingham. I sat next to her & found her grace a very charming person, quick & clever & frank & without a trace of affectation. She is a fine woman of about thirty with good features & must have been very pretty when young.' Reginald Taylor (826), Vicar of St James, Islington, during the Second World War, had other concerns: 'Up late owing to raids at night. Chiefly on Swansea. Our grief at the decision of Parliament to open theatres and cinemas on Sunday because of its dishonour to God. Shopped and telephoned. Talk with gas men about worship'.

Over twenty diaries in this checklist were kept by lawyers, from Goddard Guyborn at Lincoln's Inn in 1642 (4) to F N E Starkey, working at a City law firm while waiting for his call-up in 1945 (865). And some diaries survive as a result of court cases. A notable example is that of Thomas Bridge (62), of Bread Street, a drug importer whose long series of diaries, covering 1760–1810, ended up as Chancery Masters' Exhibits at the Public Record Office. The lawyers' interest in the case is forgotten now, but the diaries themselves chronicle a long career in the import business, which Bridge combined with a country lifestyle in Tottenham, often commuting daily to the City.

The range of goods available in the London shops impressed most diarists, and shopping is a frequently recurring theme. Even Louis de Geer (42), who liked to sneer at all things English, admitted that London shops were worth a look during his 1728 visit: 'Quoiqu'il y ait toutes sortes de boutiques par milliers à Londres dans lesquelles on trouve toutes les marchandises imaginables, quoique à très haut prix, cependant il y en a une, qu'on nomme the great Toyshop, la grande boutique de nippes, qui mérite d'être vue.. il y a des richesses immenses...'. Men were every bit as enthusiastic as women in their pursuit of consumer goods. Thomas Wolley (223), about to go abroad in 1823, was keen to smarten up his wardrobe and get ready to pack: 'In London I went to Henry Franklyns where we breakfasted then went to the taylors to get a coat & pantaloons...Tried my new pantaloons on uncomfortable things pantaloons walked about London with my Father got a new spring to my powder flash at 4 went in a coach to Twickenham... went into the City got some tools. Dined at a coffee house coming home in the Coach met a German who advised me to get Richard's Guide de Voyage & Adlung's German grammar... We walked about London & I ordered a seal skin waistcoat'. Leonard Wyon (373) enjoyed impulse buying, bringing home little presents for his temperamental wife, May: 'Brought home a china candlestick & a melon for dear May' he records in August 1853. In 1932 Rosamonde Muspratt (648) was making regular forays to the London shops: 'Dash up to London to Gorringes sale and buy pyjamas and corduroys for John', 'Match china and look at Hamptons old furniture', 'Long day in town. Great hunt for red velvet dress...' are typical entries.

Almost all diarists, of any period, revert to enduring preoccupations such as health, food, and (this being England), the weather. Health is a particularly common topic. Diarists relate their current ailments and treatment: 'Had a most acute attack from spasm & obstruction of water which all blood, sent for Dr Ashburne & Mr Copeland who relieved me by his catheter twice that day, & three on Friday after being in the hot bath – calomel & senna operated well on Friday evg. The pain did not return & my water was of its proper colour. I attribute this attack to drinking half a wine glass of Port wine and a lump of sugar in a teaspoon of coffee after dinner on the 9th' wrote Samuel Boddington (184) in 1842. Other writers are moved to comment on their health on special days, such as New Year, or a birthday. Samuel Kevan's thirty-ninth birthday in 1803 (136) produced the mournful reflection: 'Saturday was my birthday making me 39 years I feel my decay more this year than I ever did – these Rheumc Pains brings me down – tho blessed be the Lord I am much eased'. On New Year's Day in the same year William Upcott (149) was writing 'I never remember beginning a year with more unfavourable symptoms than the present. When I awoke at 8 o/c my body was in pain and my mind full of spleen and peevishness – owing to the Tooth Ache – which has grievously tormented this poor tenement of mine for the last two days'.

Meals at home and elsewhere were of great importance to many writers. The historian Edward Gibbon (65) dined out frequently, and was a regular at his club in 1762: 'That respectable body of which I have the honor to be a Member affords every evening a sight truly English. Twenty or thirty perhaps of the first men in the kingdom in point of fashion and fortune supping at little tables covered with a napkin, in the middle of a Coffee room, upon a bit of cold meat or a Sandwich & drinking a glass of Punch'. None of the diarists examined for this checklist had quite the same preoccupation with menus for which Parson Woodforde is so famous, though the actor John Pritt Harley (397) provides some competition. His consumption of food and drink in the last year of his life, 1854, leaves the reader wondering how he was able to go on stage, and may well have contributed to his fatal stroke: 'Dinner at four, roast mutton, potato, boiled plum pudding, brandy, biscuit, cheese, ale, port and sherry. Tea at six, theatre half past six, incl. Ellen, acted in one piece, home half past ten. Supped at eleven, cold roast mutton, biscuit, cheese, ale. Brandy and water and cake with Betsy. Bed at one'.

Entertainments of all kinds are described with relish. Picnic parties, excursions, visits to pleasure gardens – like Lady Mackintosh (145) in 1801 – 'after tea took Letitia to Vauxhall where I did not stay long enough to see the Duchess of Devonshire my inducement for going, & came home cold & comfortless between 11 & 12' – or the ubiquitous habits of opera- and theatregoing feature prominently. Maria Cust (382), just back from her honeymoon in 1856 'Went to the Lyceum Theatre to see Madame Ristori act 'Maria Stuarda' in the piece of that name. She is a wonderful tragic actress, but I hardly like her as well as Mlle Rachel'. Eliza Salvin (337) gained a different experience of the proceedings when invited to a dress rehearsal in 1859: 'Dress rehearsal of Henry V at the Princesses. A very curious sight. The theatre is lighted, but not so fully as during a representation. Kean sat in the centre of the dress circle. The actors hurried through their parts for it was not so much a rehearsal for the acting as for the scenery – Actors appear in the boxes every now & then to get a view of what they will never see again'. As a music student in 1901, Ethel Clementi (559) was a discriminating listener: 'As the Albert Hall was so crowded last Sunday & so many people had to be turned away, the entire programme was repeated to-day & Olive & I got in in the 1s 6d's area stalls. The R A band performed & two lady singers who were decidedly poor. The programme included Chopin's funeral march & the Dead March in Saul'. The solemn programme was prompted by the recent death of Queen Victoria. Less cultural amusements were also popular. An anonymous Irish clergyman (64) joined friends for a summer walk in 1772: '...yesterday evening being very fine Tempted the Dr of the World, another gentleman & me to walk through the Fields to the Farthing Pye-house famous for cakes & Ale & the Amusement of some small Gentry who frequent it to play Ninepins & Skittles. We found at least 50 people Happily Employed on this occasion. Each of them as Happy as a King & many of them as Despotic & Arbitrary, having Long Pipes in their mouths & always smoaking their own Tobacco How offensive soever it may be to the Olfactory Nerves of their Neighbours.' In 1827 his compatriot the Irish journalist Edward Moran (237) 'Went for the first time to Tattersalls near Hyde Park Corner where the racing stud of the late Duke of York with his carriages dogs harness &c were disposed of by auction – an immense crowd – all the sporting people there...'. And Sir Charles Pasley (305) visited a freak show in 1846: 'See the two exhibitions in Regent Street the 3-legged Portuguese child 7 months old and cheerful & active with 2 legs... Also, fruit, fish and diseases, models of...'.

Crime, inevitably, affected some diarists personally. In 1778 Thomas Bridge (62) was the victim of a burglary at his home in Tottenham: 'I rose at 6. Was called by the Servants who had come down & found the House had been broke open viz they the Rogues had try'd to Wrench up the Windows of the china closet & Kitchen, Scullery & Pantry but could not. They then took up the paving before the Cellar window & worked a Hole under the Kerb & got into the Cellar then searched every Drawer & Closet in the Kitchen opend the China Closet & examined every part, broke open a small spice chest, all the knife cases, took carving knives by way of wepons which when they went they left on the floor in the Passage. They broke open two Beaufets & Ransacked the Drawers & drank...Brandy...' A very long list of stolen items follows. Emma Groom (379) reported a mugging in 1869: 'My Dear Brother William was Pushed Down by a Bad Woman who tried to get is Umbrella but did not succeed he fell with his Foot under him which caused Dislocation of Ancle and Fracture was taken to Bartholomew Hospital where he will remain for Some Time on Sunday May 30th I went to see him he was in very good spirits and Bears it Better than we Expected'. Eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century diarists sometimes recorded the aftermath of crime in the shape of public executions. 'Witnessed the execution of 5 men before Newgate' wrote Joseph Hunter (129) briskly in 1828.

Diarists enjoyed recording gossip and rumour and anecdotes of all kinds. Lord Broughton (169) mentions in 1818 that 'Mr Julius the apothecary of Richmond breakfasted with us – he told me that some one had proposed to Lord Sidmouth to send letter thro' tunnels by steam in 35 minutes to Bristol – Lord S told Julius this'. Adelaide Seymour (319) was enjoyably shocked in 1845: 'Heard this morning that the Companion of poor Adela Villiers's flight was a Captain Ibbetson of Lord Cardigan's Regiment to whom it appears she was married at Gretna Green on Thursday. Fancy poor Lady Jersey's horror at having a daughter called Lady Adela Ibbetson!' By 1914, an anonymous Kensington lady (589) was assiduously recording the daily rumours that came her way at the outbreak of the First World War, some very implausible, as in 'Heard that a German tried to erect a wireless station on top of the Ritz Hotel. He was arrested.', others less so: 'Heard that their neighbours at Caterham are avoiding speaking to Mrs Schilling, an Englishwoman whose husband became a naturalised Englishman several years ago, & is a manager in the Dresdener Bank. They started rumours that he had been arrested as a spy. The Dresdener Bank has been licenced by the Government to carry on business under supervision & conditions. If it has to close, the Schillings will be ruined'.

Books and current reading form a popular topic for diarists. Some maintain a list of what they have read, or intend to read, as part of the diary itself, but more usually the information is slotted into general passages. 'Worked at my table cover and read Milman's History of Christianity' wrote Lady Charlotte Lindsay in 1840 (180), but over the Christmas holidays she moved to lighter fare: 'finished all the published numbers of Master Humphrey's Clock in which there are some very pathetic touching scenes & some humorous characters'.

An incidental pleasure of some diaries is sketches or cartoons supplied by the writer, such as the charming family portraits in the margins of Andrew and Agnes Donaldson's diaries (456) and the illustrations of wartime life in those of W E Hall (856) and Percy Home (858). Home also included some cuttings and ephemera, including a bar bill for two cocktails. The diaries of Robert Ramsay (495), a long series, are stuffed with items he amassed in his daily activities: admission tickets, programmes, orders of service and much more. Ramsay's collection appears to have been random; other diarists deliberately mounted paper items in their diary by way of illustration. Perhaps the most attractive example listed here is that of the Newcastle businessman W J Bell (354) who created a neat scrapbook diary of his visit to London for the Great Exhibition. As well as writing a detailed account of all his doings, he stuck into the book a series of illustrations, maps, tickets and bills, providing an intriguing montage of London life in 1851.

Among the questions that this project has frequently prompted are: 'Nobody has time to write a diary these days, do they?', and, 'How do you know the diarists were telling the truth?' In response to the first question, the editor's reply is that you might be surprised. She has learned of a considerable number of diaries currently being written, though no one will openly declare their ultimate plans for the manuscripts. We must hope they will eventually be placed in suitable custody. There is also a thriving genre of internet diarykeeping under way, though most of it makes tedious reading. In reply to the second question, diaries should be treated with the same caution as any other historical evidence, with due allowance made for bias, special pleading and self-delusion. Most were not written for public consumption, at least not in the writer's lifetime. Those that were – notably those deliberately kept for publication, by journalists and politicians hoping to fulfil the maxim 'Keep a diary and one day it will keep you' – trail their own warnings about the author's intended effect and self-presentation.

Using the checklist

The checklist is arranged in order of each diary's starting date. In the case of a long-running diary containing a London section, the starting date given will be that of the London coverage, even if the diary began many years earlier. The entry then gives the diarist's name, titles, description and occupation, if known. Anonymous writers precede named ones within the chronological sequence. If the gender is not obvious, it has been added if identified. Details of the manuscript follow, with the abbreviated repository name and reference number. Some manuscript diaries are available on commercial microfilms, and this has been noted where found. There is a list of locations with addresses, an index of diarists and a subject index of coverage. The latter is of necessity fairly basic. It picks up subject terms used in checklist entry descriptions where that information was available, but the user should bear in mind that information about, say, 'coffee houses', 'Crystal Palace' or 'bomb damage' might well also occur in other diaries of the appropriate period although not specifically mentioned in their own entries and therefore not indexed to the term. Wives and children of clergy, medical practitioners, lawyers and the like have been indexed under those professions, to keep complementary material together.


The editor's thanks are due to all the archivists, librarians, museum staff and others, world-wide, who have given so much information, help and encouragement in producing this list. All are enthusiastic about encouraging greater use of their diary material, and will be delighted if this publication leads to its wider consultation. Thanks are also due to Mr Bengt Nilsson of Linköping University Library for translations from the Swedish.