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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dear Diary: I had so many nice things to say...

March 8, 1918

Going up in the lift at Holborn the other day I stood next to a boy of fourteen or so, whose head only was visible among the crowd. I noticed that it was an extremely interesting, sensitive, clever, observant head; rather sharp, but independent looking. One couldn’t tell from his cap whether he was well off or not. I came to the conclusion that he was the son of an officer with whom he stood. When we got to the street I looked at once at his legs. His trousers had holes in them. From that one could judge what a wretched affair his life will be.

-- Virginia Woolf, from A Moment’s Liberty: the Shorter Diary, abridged and edited by Anne Olivier Bell

March 10, 1863

I had so many nice things to say—which now, alas, are knocked forever from my head—when news came that the Yankees were advancing on us, and were already within fifteen miles. The panic which followed reminded me forcibly of our running days in Baton Rouge. Each one rapidly threw into trunks all clothing worth saving, with silver and valuables, to send to the upper plantation. I sprang up, determined to leave instantly for Clinton so mother would not be alarmed for our safety; but before I got halfway dressed, Helen Carter came in, and insisted on my remaining, declaring that my sickness and inability to move would prove a protection to the house, and save it from being burned over their heads. Put on that plea, though I have no faith in melting the bowels of compassion of a Yankee, myself, I consented to remain.... So she tossed all we owned into our trunk to send to mother as hostage of our return, and it is now awaiting the cars. My earthly possessions are all reposing by me on the bed at this instant, consisting of my guitar, a change of clothes, running-bag, cabas, and this book.

-- Sarah Morgan Dawson, from A Confederate Girl's Diary

March 14, 1858

My dear (sister) Beth died at three this morning, after two years of patient pain. Last week she put her work away, saying the needle was ‘too heavy,’ and having given us her few possessions, made ready for the parting in her own simple, quiet way. For two days she suffered much, begging for ether, though its effect was gone. Tuesday she lay in Father’s arms, and called us round her, smiling contentedly as she said, ‘All here!’ I think she bid us good-bye then, as she held our hands and kissed us tenderly. Saturday she slept, and at midnight became unconscious, quietly breathing her life away till three, then, with one last look of the beautiful eyes, she was gone.

-- Louisa May Alcott, from The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists, edited by Irene and Alan Taylor


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