The final words written by Benjamin Britten in these extraordinary diaries that he kept almost daily between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five were ‘Energetic if nothing else’. As one follows his progress from reluctant schoolboy – how he hated the ‘abominable hole’, as he described his public school – to successful young composer about town, the abiding impression is of his tremendous capacity for work and for attending to the wide circle of friends he quickly built up. The other aspects of his character that quickly become clear are on the one hand his extremely sophisticated and sharp critical ear for all things musical, but on the other his dangerously naïve attitude to his own sexuality, and other people’s reactions to certain aspects of it.
Although some passages from the diaries have been published before – in the notes to the first volumes of Britten’s letters, and in Humphrey Carpenter’s biography – this is the first time they have been made available in a full version. John Evans, who has edited them with