It seems a distinction is needed between journals and diaries: this is how I make that distinction. Journals are written irregularly, and are unlimited as to space, so if I were keeping a journal - which I am in a sense doing with this blog - I would write in it when I had something to write, and what I wrote would be of whatever length I saw fit. Diaries, on the other hand, are usually five year diaries, with a few lines in a small book set out for each day for five years, with January 1, for example, showing on the same page for five successive years. The expectation is that an entry is made every day. Whole books have been written on how to keep a diary or a journal.
Journals and diaries are written by differing personalities for different purposes, consequently arrive in the hands of a later reader conveying highly differing impressions of their writers. These writings nevertheless fall on a continuum, which from my experience ranges from the one extreme of revealing nothing of the personality of the writer, and on the other extreme of revealing more than the reader can comfortably handle knowing about the personality of the writer.
And I cannot tell you at this point which I find the more fascinating - the unrevealing or the revealing - only that all are fascinating.
Here are examples from the extremes of the revelatory continuum.
My father's sister Elsie wrote her diary as a sort of farm journal, which anyone in the family could refer to for such information as which colts were trained three years ago, or what day of last winter was the coldest. It was pragmatic, useful, and utterly unrevealing of the personality of the writer. As I have mentioned earlier, I included in the book of Elsie's diaries from 1935 and onward an earlier journal, written when she was nineteen and away from home for the first time. I had hoped that her personality as a young woman whould be less obscure than it was found to be by 1935, and it is, but only a little. There are small evidences of girlish enthusiasm, but mainly I see through that journal's year a growing suppression of enthusiasm, as though the labours of the years to come were already weighing on her. Her life as reflected in her young journal and her later life-long diaries was a life in which only her physical landscape was reflected.
In other words, her personality had to be found between the lines. And as I have mentioned my brother who knew her much better than I did was also challenged to find the personality in the diaries.
On the other extreme is the journal of Uncle Walter. Uncle Walter wrote a book which is highly revealing of his personality; this book will be subject of an upcoming "Project" entry. In addition he kept a journal for the first year or so of his marriage to my mother's sister, which also revealed his personality. It would not be fair to say there was NO reference in his journal to events in his physical landscape - he did, for example, manage to mention the birth of his first child. But almost all of his journal reflects what is going on in his mental landscape. Events occur, and what he records is what went on in his mind as a consequence of the events. His interest was not the events themselves, but their impact on his own mental processes.
Aunt Elsie's diary and Uncle Walter's journal are on the extremes of the revealingness continuum. Others fall at some point between. Of them, more later.