There are so many reasons to put pen to paper, and in The Private Life of the Diary, Sally Bayley examines the variety of genres and motivations for writing things down.
Did you have a five year diary you could lock with a tiny key? Did you write in green ink? Or purple?! Did you pour your very heart into it?
The author, a diarist herself, sees their potential to “offer brilliant shards of glistening, extravagant, entertaining, inimitable, unrepeatable insight.” She takes us on a journey through other people’s pages, from the eminent, to the extraordinary, to the personal.
Describing her own need for a diary, and the quest to find a suitable receptacle, Bayley gives attention to the physical form of the book, which must not call attention to itself, for the sake of privacy. She finds the perfect one, with lines “reassuringly thick and bold, but not too thick I couldn’t write over them,” inconspicuously covered in brown paper.
I was delighted to learn that Virginia Woolf, who regularly documented her daily observations, prioritised her diaries over clothes when packing for a seven week holiday in 1903. She sews together ‘journal books’ – she binds! Time and space are measured by the amount of paper she gets through.
There are many curious shining details in this book, each diary a “miniature museum of experience”.
Now where’s my pen, there’s something I need to note down…