Help me find old diaries published or placed online
June 4, 2008 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Please help me find awesome online diaries! No, not blogs, diaries.

I've lately had this craving to read diaries, mostly of people living some time ago, or living in a radically different world than mine. I'm less interested in blogs and contemporary diarying than in transcribed diaries from times past. Basically, what I am looking for is more of this, the transcribed and translated journal of a young girl living in England, and detailing her receiving her first corsets, and being introduced into society. I do know about Pepys' diary, but I'd love further suggestions -- they don't have to be historical (I think I remember someone on the Blue linking to a diary written in the seventies, then posted online); basically non-contemporary will float my boat.

(I'm happy to take suggestions for books, too! It's just that I'm moving soon, so the more non-physical stuff I obtain, the better...there is always the library, of course.)

Thank you, hive mind!
posted by kalimac to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Online Diaries.
posted by OmieWise at 1:29 PM on June 4, 2008

Do you know the Diary Junction? Links to over 500 historical diaries online.

Also, heres a translation of Chateaubriand's Memoirs (one of my personal favorites, FWIW)
posted by Chrischris at 1:34 PM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had a WONDERFUL time reading a surgeon's diary this year for my BA. This guy, John Knyveton, kept a really great and detailed account of his time as a surgeon (including his first year of apprenticeship, which is the only one I read) in the mid-late 1700s. It was amazing. If you're in to finding out how surgical students had to go dig up their own bodies for dissection and all that goes with it, that is. He spent the rest of his time as a Naval surgeon with the British Fleet. Pretty cool.

You should check your library, but if that fails you...
Here is the one I read (different edition it looks like).
Here is more.

And then there is THIS.
posted by phunniemee at 1:42 PM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here are texts that are available on with the word "diary" in the title. It may take a bit of sifting through, but I already see two that look interesting: Diary Written in the Provincial Lunatic Asylum and The Real Diary of a Real Boy.
posted by MsMolly at 1:48 PM on June 4, 2008

I found this today searching for pictures and auctions of Joseph Cornell's art (oh, swoon). I love that all these are scanned at such high resolution and all the different things he wrote on. May not be old enough for you.

I loved them enough I was going to do a FPP, but alas, MeFi's already got an (old!) thread on Cornell.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:40 PM on June 4, 2008

Pepys' Diary,, posted as the entries unfold--so June 4th entries for a particular year get posted on June 4th.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:52 PM on June 4, 2008

You might enjoy the Journal of a Disappointed Man if you don't already know it. Also the extracts from the diary of Anne Lister, though sadly the full version is not available online.

I strongly suspect that the Diary of a Young Lady, which you mention, is not authentic. The lack of biographical information is suspicious, as is the fetishistic detail about tight-laced corsets, corporal punishment in girls' boarding schools, etc. I take it to be a piece of semi-pornographic fiction.
posted by verstegan at 4:01 PM on June 4, 2008

I found "A Diary from Dixie", written during the Civil War by Mary Boykin Miller Chestnut to be interesting. (I tried to link it, but I could not). I also found "A Midwife's Tale", written by Laural Ulrich and based on the diary of Martha Ballard; but it's a bit boring, for the most part. She wrote her diary mostly as notations on what happened that day; for example, if she was called to deliver a baby, or when and how she was paid. Now I'm off to sample everyone else's suggestions, as I enjoy this material, too.
posted by annieb at 4:07 PM on June 4, 2008

In the First Person indexes historical online letters, diaries and oral histories - three-quarters of them are on the web in university archives and similar types of collections; the rest are available through subscription databases created by Alexander Street Press, so check your library's web site to see if they can supply access. OAIster is another search tool that indexes digitized library collections, and many of them contain diaries.
posted by zepheria at 7:42 PM on June 4, 2008

Kalimac. I hope you've had a look at The Diary Junction. The whole point of it is to provide links for historical and literary diaries with a specific emphasis on actual texts available online. There are listings by date, nationality, job etc. The site was created a couple of years ago now, so, unfortunately, some links have become outdated. I'm starting to refresh the data pages, but it's a long job. Any feedback on outdated links would be much appreciated. Paul
posted by Pikle at 10:30 AM on June 7, 2008

PS: there's also The Diary Junction blog which focuses on stories about diaries on the news, again with links to online texts if they exist.
posted by Pikle at 10:32 AM on June 7, 2008

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