Monday, January 8, 2018

On reading diaries

One's sense of the substance of history is turned inside out. Where one habitually thought of "ordinary lives" forming a vast background to historical "events," now one's vision is of the great events dimly passing behind the immediate realities that comprise an individual's experience. In diary after diary events like the Old Pretender's rebellion in 1715, or the battle of Waterloo a century later, float by like rumours. Indeed, the very notion of an historical "event" becomes obscure and begins to seem like an abstraction, a fantasy. In the foreground is the individual consciousness, absolutely resisting the insistence of future historians that it should experience itself as peripheral.

--from Robert Fothergill, Private Chronicles: A Study of English Diaries

No comments: