It is useful at times to read published diaries and get a feel for why and how others have taken up the pen. Some have written with the expectation of readers, others not so much. The common denominator is that these are diaries which are in the public domain and available to read for free online. Enjoy.
Emilie Davis (1839-1889) – A civilian’s diary during the U.S. Civil War. Emilie Davis was free African American woman living in Philadelphia while writing in the diary. It was a pocket diary with a few blank lines for every day. Pennsylvania State University houses the digital scans.
Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) – During the plague in London in 1665, the author who would later write Robinson Crusoe kept a diary of the horrors he witnessed, later publishing the sensational journal. A Journal of the Plague Year is available at Project Gutenberg as a transcription of the original journal.
Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904) – A Swiss-Russian traveler who explored the Sahara was a prolific writer and diarist. Eberhardt at times disguised herself as a man to be able to travel with little incident. Her surviving diary entries were compiled and published in a book titled, Isabelle Eberhardt, ou, la Bonne nomade: d’après des documents inédits. The English title is The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt. This diary is available online at Project Gutenberg in French. For a translation, you will need to purchase the book wherever books are sold.
Matthew Henson (1866-1955) – In the autobiography of Matthew Henson called A Negro Explorer at the North Pole, the author weaves his personal history with his diary entries from the last expedition of the Peary Arctic Club. They give context to who he is and what the group set out to explore. You can find it at Project Gutenberg and Google Books.
Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) – The diaries of Pepys are online as a personal project of a tech enthusiast in Herefordshire named Phil Gyford. They are a transcription of the diaries rather than a digital scan. Pepys was a young civil servant in London starting his diary in 1660 and stopping a decade later. You will find ruminations of his daily schedule.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) –Digital scans of diaries from U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s collection are available at the Roosevelt Center. You can see his diary from the age of 9, his teen years, his diaries during law school, and as a member of the New York State Assembly, as president, training for war, travel diaries, etc.
Robert Scott (1868-1912) – Captain Robert Scott let British Antarctic expeditions -the Discovery (1901–1904) and Terra Nova (1910–1913). The Terra Nova Antarctic Diaries are available at the British Library to read online. The diaries, “document all aspects of the expedition, including: · the voyage · establishment of the winter base · scientific work · sledging expeditions,” according to the British Library. Interestingly, Scott “wrote most of his entries sequentially on one side of the page, leaving the other side blank,” says the British Library. “In some instances he later used the blank pages to write further entries, reversing the diary and writing from the back of the volume forwards. These entries appear upside down in the original volumes,” they continue. The website allows you to rotate the diary so that one does not need to read it upside down; they also have a transcription in san serif typeface for easier reading.