History and Evolution

  • Trevor Field


There being no novel form in 1606 with which to mock or mimic the noting of events in a diary, Jonson’s Volpone has to stand as the first piece of literary irony aimed at the diary form.1 More important still, the very existence of such an ironical comment suggests that the writing of diaries was a recognised social fact at the time, and the formula with which a Lady Margaret Hoby ended one immensely boring account of a day in 1599 (‘And so to bed’) prefigures Pepys, the innovating genius, by over 60 years.2 While the scope of our inquiry into diary novels makes it unnecessary to analyse in any depth the early centuries of diary writing, it should be pointed out that William Matthews’s Annotated Bibliography of British Diaries (1950) goes back as far as 1442 for its first example: it would be very strange if the aims and characteristics of such journals did not vary enormously in the course of more than 500 years.


Short Story Direct Speech Love Affair Literary Creation Diary Form 
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  1. 1.
    This extract (Act IV, scene i) is quoted in R. Fothergill, Private Chronicles: A Study of English Diaries (Oxford University Press, 1974) p. 19.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Here and in the next paragraph I am again indebted to Robert Fothergill, op. cit., pp. 14–26.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    J. Rousset, Narcisse romancier (Corti, 1973) pp. 92–3.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See A. Girard, Le Journal intime (Presses universitaires de France, 1963) pp. 66, 74–5.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See Fothergill, op. cit., p. 33.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See Girard, op. cit., pp. 97–8.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    C. Nodier, Romans de Charles Nodier, preface of 1840 (Charpentier, 1873) p. 19.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ibid., p. 53. The similarity with Lamartine may be seen by comparing the French original (‘Souvent …, au soleil couchant, je m’assieds sur la pente d’un coteau, sous quelque vieux chêne’) with the opening of the poem ‘L’Isolement’: Souvent sur la montagne, à l’ombre du vieux chêne, Au coucher du soleil, tristement je m’assieds.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Marquise de Souza, Eugène de Rothelin, vol. 1 (Nicolle, 1808) pp. 5 and 47.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Mme de Krüdener, Valérie (Charpentier, 1846) p. 1.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    ‘Mes vingt-cinq jours’, in G. de Maupaussant, Contes et nouvelles, vol. 2 (Gallimard, Pléïade edition, 1979) p. 534.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    ‘Un Fou’, in ibid., p. 546.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    ‘Le Horla’, in ibid., pp. 913–38. For the 1886 version see pp. 822–30.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    A. Frémy, Journal d’une jeune fille, 2nd edn (Lévy, 1861).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ibid., p. 1.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    O. Feuillet, Le Journal d’une femme (Calmann-Lévy, 1887).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Ibid., p. 47.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    A. France, La Vie littéraire (1889) pp. 89–91, as quoted by Girard, op. cit., p. 569.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    P. Bourget, Le Fantôme (Plon-Nourrit, 1901) pp. 228, 327–8.Google Scholar
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    F. Rolfe, Don Renato, edited by C. Woolf (Chatto and Windus, 1963) p. 7.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 244.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    H. Söderberg, Doctor Glas (Chatto and Windus, 1963) p. 16.Google Scholar
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    P. Purser, A Small Explosion (Secker and Warburg, 1979) p. 4.Google Scholar
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    A. Gide, Les Cahiers d’André Walter (Gallimard, 1952) p. 82.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    V. Raoul, The French Fictional Journal (University of Toronto Press, 1980) p. 75.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    M. Butor, L’Emploi du temps (‘10/18’ edition, 1966) p. 41 (entry for 15 May).Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    M. Sarton, As We Are Now (Gollancz, 1974) p. 45. An even more explicit assertion is made by the diarist in We: ‘Yes, I had made an entry of it. And, consequently, all that had really taken place.’ See Y. Zamyatin, We (Penguin Modern Classics, 1983) p. 159.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Evan J. Connell, The Diary of a Rapist (Heinemann, 1967) p. 237.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    A. de Céspedes, The Secret (Harvill Press, 1957) p. 211. A translation of Quaderno proibito (1952) (entry for 24 May).Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    P. Ackroyd, The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde (Hamish Hamilton, 1983).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Trevor Field 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Trevor Field
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AberdeenUK

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