JOHN BRIGHT kept Diaries for fifty years, mostly in little oblong note-books which he filled from cover to cover with his firm, neat handwriting. With some exceptions he intended the entries merely as aids to his own memory, for he spent on them little of the care in composition and arrangement that he would give to even the least of his speeches, letters or newspaper articles. The exceptions are his records of foreign travel and the accounts of memorable experiences (e.g. his interviews with Queen Victoria) written at the request of his family. Their informality enhances rather than diminishes the personal interest of the main body of the Diaries; they are the frank private notes of a singularly simple, candid and noble mind upon the men and the events of the Victorian Age.
In the selection of these passages from the great bulk of a journal reaching from 1837 to 1887 the purpose kept in view has been to intervene as little as possible between the reader and John Bright. To make out of the Diaries an historical biography was both impossible and unnecessary, for a great historian had already written a beautiful "Life" which admirably synthesized Bright's career and his era. Some ellipses here and there, however, called for brief statements of biographical or historical fact to bridge them and make the whole intelligible. They have been provided as simply as might be. The largest of these spaces is the period of the Anti-Corn-Law campaign, whose arduous and continuous labours left Bright little time for diary writing. For the rest, such references and explanations as appeared necessary will be found in footnotes.
The Memoir of his youth with which the book opens, written in his old age, contains a remarkable picture of the life of a Quaker family at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It provides the key to Bright's character. He broke completely away from that austere quietism in the Quaker system which frowned upon a career of public activity and especially of political strife; but no understanding of his