The Sunday Salon-Secret Diaries

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dear Diary,

If there’s one thing I love more than writing in you, dear diary, it would be reading the diaries of others.  Oh, I know that sounds scandalous – after all, a diary is meant to be the dwelling place for all our most secret thoughts and dreams, isn’t it?  Surely that’s what the diaries I’ve kept these many years have been for me.

But on occasion, someone sees fit to publish their diary.  Usually that’s an “important” someone – a writer, artist, or statesman  – someone whose life would be of particular interest to others, so they generously share their innermost feelings with the world.

diariesToday I’m completely caught up in The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, a volume in which dear Miss Bronte (assisted by the imagination of Syrie James) has decided to “unburden her soul – to reveal certain truths which I have hitherto shared with only a few of my most intimate connections – and some which I have never dared breathe to a living soul.”   For you see, Charlotte is in crisis, and “faced with a dilemma of the weightiest proportion.”

Diary, you know my great admiration for Miss Bronte, her life and her work, an admiration which began when I was but a young girl and read Jane Eyre  for the very first time.  The world she created was so captivating to my imagination, appealing to that rather dark side of my nature, as well as to the romantic young woman I was fast becoming.  And then I read Girl With A Pen, a biography by Elisabeth Kyle, which stirred my own inner longings to write.  From that moment on, I was fascinated with the Bronte family and compulsively drawn to their life on the high and windy moors of Yorkshire.

It is natural, I suppose, for a writer to use words as a means of working through those difficult times in life we all must face.   So our diaries become more than a mere record of our days, but a place where the pen aides us in ordering our deepest thoughts and fears, in daring to give life to our hopes and dreams.  In reading Charlotte’s diary, I’m coming to understand even more about this woman and her strong commitment to her ideals and her art.  Reading about her life, her determination to see her work in print, to share the stories that she felt deserved to be told, I appreciate even more the writer’s craft and the work entailed in spinning stories for the world to read. 

Now I share one of my deepest secrets with you, Dear Diary.  It is my own yearning to move people with words, to make them think, to strike a chord of recognition in their souls when they read something that I have written. 

For now, I go back to reading Charlotte’s diary, and find out what other secrets she might impart.

Until tomorrow…







19 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon-Secret Diaries

  1. I’ve read very few diaries – I am foolishly afraid I’ll get bogged down in the run of entries that say ‘rained today, didn’t get anything done’, although I daresay that a great novelist could manage to make something special out of that. One book I do have that I’m really looking forward to, though is The Hidden Writer; Diaries and the Creative Life by Alexandra Johnson, with chapters on Alice James, May Sarton, Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and Anais Nin, amongst others. I’m really interested in the idea of the diary and what it means to keep one.

    • Thanks for the recommendation on The Hidden Writer. That sounds like something I must definitely read! Perhaps you’ll get hooked on writer’s diaries after reading it 🙂

  2. Virginia Woolf’s diaries are among my favorite books of any genre. Always found a comparison with her letters of comparable time frame fascinating. Appearance and performance vie with authenticity for attention in one’s written words. So glad you are enjoying your diary reading experience too. Happy reading!

    • I’ve enjoyed reading her diaries and letters side by side as well. I’ve done a similar comparison with Sylvia Plath.

      For something very different, I’ve also enjoyed the journals of Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

  3. Love this post. I’ve compulsively kept a diary since like the second grade. It all started when I learned how to write. I was obsessed with perfecting my writing. So I used to keep notebooks where I copied passages from books I was reading and scribbled down thoughts or words – anything I could think of into them. As time went on, the nature of my journals changed. I started copying less and writing more about my life – what I was feeling, what I was thinking, what was going on around me. Now I keep two notebooks with me at all times – one is a journal (which I don’t write in nearly enough) and the other is just a notebook. I take notes from the books I’m reading, notes about the books I want to read, ect (sometimes, I even write story ideas in it!).

    I also empathize with your desire to use the written word to reach people – I feel the same way about my writing. I don’t devote nearly enough time to it at the moment, but I see language as the most powerful tool. That’s why I decided to become an English major even though my family couldn’t really accept and be proud of it.

    Reading diaries is extremely fun and a great vehicle for telling a story. They let the reader in on the innermost thoughts of the protagonist and I always find myself enjoying that. I love the idea of being inside someone’s head even if it’s limited to what they decide to share. There’s something intimate about sharing a diary that you don’t get from reading books written in other styles. I think that’s what I find to be especially appealing and enjoyable about them.

    • I love the image of you as a child carrying around your “copy book.” Thank you for sharing that 🙂

      I really enjoy the perspective you get when reading a diary. It’s much more intimate, as you said, and it makes the reader feel a closer connection with the writer.

      Such a lovely repsonse~ thank you!

  4. If my house were on fire, I would run back in to rescue Woolf’s diaries…in fact, I first ‘met’ her through a snippet that appeared in a magazine. She said that she found that keeping a diary was crucial for her because when she read back through the old ones she found she could “separate the diamonds from the dustheap” & so go on…

    Alice James was a worthy sibling to Bill & Hank–I do recommend her (only 233 pages; alas, she suffered for being that worthy sibling). Opened a page at random & found this: “It isn’t in the sorrows and the pains but in the inexorable inadequacy for happiness that the tragedy lies” and “the success or failure of a life, as far as posterity goes, seems to lie in the more or less luck of seizing the right moment of eclipse.”

    Seize the moment, Becca!!
    (oh, I’ve had a notebook since Harriet the Spy 😉 )

    • I did read Villette, but it’s been a long, long time. Hmm…I feel a re-read coming on.

      There were some hints about Charlotte’s future writing in these diaries, but I’m not sure how accuarate they are 🙂

  5. I think it would be fun to wander around a bookstore with you. You find such books! Are we all led inexorably to certain books, certain genres? I don’t know. But I love the sound of this Diary.

    I’ve looked back at some diaries…journals…what is the appropriate term? does it depend on what we put in them? Anyway, without looking at them, I’d like to throw them out. But can’t, haven’t done so. And continue to jot and scribble…though I never seem to finisih filling up one before falling in love with yet another. Good thing these are journals I’m talking about!
    How about you? do you go from page 1 all the way to the final page before starting a new notebook or journal?

    • You know, I find most of my interesting books through book bloggers – I don’t know when I was last in a real live bookstore! (I can’t believe it, but it’s true.)

      That’s an interesting question you posed, about whether I go to the end of a notebook before starting a new one.

      Alas, no, I’m afraid all too often I lose interest after a while, and put the journal writing aside. Then when I go to take it up again, of course I must have a new notebook!

  6. I love reading other people’s diaries and letters. (Only the published ones, you understand, I don’t go round peering into private notebooks.) I’m not certain, though how I’d get on with one that’s been fictionalized; I enjoy the real thing too much.
    My favourites are those of the Bloomsbury Group but if I’m having a really bad day I always go back to Helene Hanff. Sometimes it’s just nice to spend time with a totally kindred spirit.

  7. Ann, I had my doubts about this fictionalized version of a diary, but I must say I enjoyed it. I think it helped that there is no true Bronte diary, so I was able to fully suspend disbelief on this and take it for the fictionalized account it was.

    I much prefer the real thing when it comes to diaries and journals. I’ve read 22 Charing Cross Road several times- is there another Hanff book? I’m sure I’d love it!

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