Long before there was Facebook and Instagram to provide a digital record of one’s life, people used to write daily entries in their diaries. Many writers keep diaries or journals to record their experiences and thoughts that often make their way into their literary works as well as to follow their own advice to aspiring writers: “write every single day.” When asked why a writer would want his diaries published, John Fowles responded: “The diary will really try and tell people who you are and what you were. The alternative is writing nothing, or creating a totally lifeless, as it is leafless, garden.” Here are some diaries of famous writers:
Lewis Carroll: Caroll’s diary encompassed 13 volumes (1855-1897); only 9 volumes survive.
John Cheever: Cheever’s journals contain more than 4,300 pages (single-spaced, typed).
Charles Darwin: Darwin’s personal diary for a voyage contains 800 pages; the field notes fill 18 volumes.
John Fowles: Fowles wrote extensively each day in his journals beginning in 1946. His journals, covering 1949 to 1990, were published in two volumes in 2003 and 2006.
Anne Frank: Perhaps the most famous diary, consisting of 324 handwritten pages, written from June 12, 1942 to August 1, 1944. There were three versions: (a) her personal diary (b) an edited version she had hoped to publish after the war, and (c) the version edited by her father, Otto Frank, who drew on versions a and b; this is the one that was published as The Diary of a Young Girl in 1947.
Samuel Pepys: Pepys’ diary, which covered the English Restoration period from 1660 to 1669, contains more than a million words.
David Sedaris: Sedaris began a diary in 1977 (when he was 20 years old), and has written an entry every single day for 40 years. The diaries now span 165 volumes. Excerpts from the period between 1977 and 2002 were recently published in May 2017, Theft by Finding Diaries 1977-2002.
For further reading: Under the Covers and Between the Sheets by C. Alan Joyce
The Journals (Volume I and II) by John Fowles, edited by Charles Drazin