I made the comment recently that antique diaries express very little emotion. I am curious if this has been other people’s experience and what theories they have on “emotionless” writing.
“Saw man struck by car ahead of us.” … ” Took Don to his house. Saw man run over.” … “Dead cat episode.”… “Hitler declared war on Poland. Extra!” … “Grandma just stopped breathing at 2:45. Funeral Tuesday.”
These are stray sentences tucked into page-long entries in my mother’s 1939 diary. That’s all you get, the suspended animation of what could be deeply emotional experiences. You want to scream “Then what happened?” or “How did you feel about that?” but there is nothing more.
The 1873, 1880, 1897, and 1934 diaries I have in my collection are similar. “Flora died today.” Who was Flora, what was their relationship to her, what significance was the loss? The style of writing of that era was predominantly to record the event and nothing more. I don’t know if either a housewife or a farmer would have been able to justify much time on such a self-focused task. I think letter writing was far more acceptable and necessary.
Reading this first of my mother’s diaries has been an exercise in frustration. She mentions many “episodes” or “incidents.” There does not appear to be any intended audience for her writing except possibly her future self. That could justify the mere mention of an “episode,” because she obviously felt she would remember it later. (And would she, after 71 years had passed?) I regret that I did not read these before she died. There are so many things I would like to ask her.
Are journals with full-bodied emotions rare because most people do not live “emotional” lives? Or…is everyone full of feelings but think they should be kept private? What would be the purpose of keeping a journal without using it to express some of what is unacceptable in normal social situations?
I am looking for feedback on this aspect of self-recording. Those of you who keep a diary today – do you reveal your feelings and opinions or do you record events only? If so, why?