Diary-itis

Two remarkable things quickly strike any surveyor of diaries.

One is the staggering output of many writers, who in the most extreme cases seem to have done nothing else but write their diary. Some such as William Gladstone, also found time to conduct an extensive correspondence and serve as British Prime Minister! The American poet Arthur Crew Inman (1895–1951), whose 155 volumes produced over nearly 40 years encompass approximately 17 million words, would be among the most prolific. In his case, much of the diary content records the stories of hired ‘talkers’. John Evelyn, who to- gether with Pepys was among the best known 17th century diarists, kept his for 66 years, a period roughly similar to the evangelist John Wesley. The record, at least for published out- put, probably goes to Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the founder of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order based at Kaohsiung. His published diaries total 44 volumes. Pepys’ decade of recording, which resulted in one and a quarter million words, pales by comparison, although we should remember that he stopped writing due to failing eye sight in 1669 aged 36, and he lived for another 34 years!

The other remarkable aspect, of course, is that publishing houses see sufficient interest in, and secure financial support for, the publication of the diarist’s daily record.

Item 49

A selection of published diaries by some of the world’s most prolific writers (Venerable Master Hsing Yun, Rev John Wesley, Samuel Pepys, William Gladstone, Ioannis Metaxas and Thomas Moore).