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The Private Life of the Diary: From Pepys to Tweets – A History of the Diary as an Art Form

By Sally Bayley

In a beautiful literary exploration, Sally Bayley tracks the evolution – and the potential twenty first century death of – the diary, mourning what it means to lose the art of writing simply for oneself.

Diaries hold all manner of things: they allow us a moment to be completely personal, to self-aggrandise, to focus on self-reflection without concern of what someone on the outside might think. Discovered or published diaries of the past have also provided glimpses into history, eras and minds gone by, especially the inner lives otherwise unknown.

Tracing the history of the diary from Samuel Pepys, whose record of the Great Plague and Great Fire of London informed history, through the likes of Virginia Woolf’s personal confessions in the twentieth century, and up to the age of social media, Sally Bayley explores the beauty and the power of recording one’s own life.

Taking this thought all the way up to our era of exposure, with confessional journalism and social media barrage, Bayley explores what we might lose as individuals if we let go of the diary as private confidante, choosing instead a culture of public disclosure.

Format: Paperback
Release Date: 18 Mar 2021
Pages: 256
ISBN: 978-0-00-841415-3
Price: £9.99 (Export Price) , £9.99
Sally Bayley teaches writing in Oxford as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. She is the author of The Private Life of the Diary, Girl with Dove and No Boys Play Here, as well as other work on Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson. Her work is literary but often crosses genres. Sally put herself into care when she was fourteen and is the first person from the West Sussex County Council care system to study at

‘A masterly study on the 'long historical habit' of diary writing … Bayley's book succeeds brilliantly in merging scholarship with imagination, and emotional depth with writerly flair’Independent -

”'An elegant survey of diaries through history and why we keep them … Bayley is splendidly dismissive of blogs - sending boring screeds into 'a blank universe” - and when she defined tweeting as 'a sort of premature mental ejaculation' I wrote in the margin in Sylvia Plath-size letters with a Magic Marker: Brava, Sally!’Roger Lewis, The Times

‘A delight for fans of Sylvia Plath as well as diary writers everywhere’Woman's Way Ireland -