Have you ever wondered what daily life was like in the past? What a young man or woman did with their time? As I was doing research on the Victorian era for one of my books, I came across interesting selections from diaries of people of all ages.
My initial search started because the protagonist in my novel, An Inherited Evil, must learn more about his long-dead grandmother. To give him the chance to do this, I provided him with diaries written by his grandmother when she was a teenager and in her early twenties.
Through my research, I discovered that many actual diaries of the time had preprinted pages with several dates per page—only room enough to write short capsules of your day. Yet even those capsules gave a picture of a life. Excerpts like, “Spent all day sewing my new frock,” or “Took most of the day to churn the butter,” are typical of these capsules. But there are also bits about who the writer called on and who returned the favor. And if the author of the diary lived in the country, guests would often stay overnight even if they lived nearby. I suppose because a home nearby wasn’t really all that close. (Or the weather was bad.)
For my novel, I needed the diary entries to be long paragraphs. I was happy to find that Victorians also wrote in blank books and scrap books filled with drawings and photos to keep records of their lives. The most difficult part about reading old diaries is deciphering the handwriting, which is often cramped, with more lines per page than seem humanly possible. But if you’re interested in making the attempt, there are countless resources online and books available.
All this made me wonder if people do this type of record-keeping anymore. I mean, I’m aware that some people keep journals where they record thoughts and feelings and ideas. But do people, especially teenagers, record snippets of their daily life in a book meant to be private? Or is that type of thing now done on social networking sites where people can instantly let others know about their day?
Maybe 100 years from now, people will be reading blogs to see what life was like in the 21st century.