In early fall, I accomplished a long-term goal: to read The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Actually, I listened to it on audio CDs, which took seven hours. In many ways, that was better. I have always enjoyed reading first-person historical accounts, and I think that’s why Pepys’ diary appeals to me. He kept the diary for ten years. Failing eyesight forced him to stop. Pepys worked for the Royal Navy and was later a member of Parliament. A more complete summary of his life is here. The diary is an amazing portrait of the man, his tie, and the historical events and people that surrounded him. He doesn’t get deeply into his own feelings, but records what his day was like and his observations. Most people remember his accounts of the Great Fire of London, and the Plague in London. He talks about his work and cultural events. Though a devoted play-goer, he wasn’t too enamored of Shakespeare’s plays. He didn’t have much to say about them. And like anyone else, he had his good points and bad points. Here are some quotes from the diary.
Most editions of the diary that I have ever seen in libraries have been abridged editions. The diary is simply too large to read in its entirety. Pepys seems to have intended it for eventual publication, because some of the pages were bound and in his massive library when they were found. He also wrote in a code, and it took researchers a long time to decipher it. Different editions have been published. After I read the diary, I searched the library catalog to see what else had been written. I found at least two biographies and one novel about him and his wife.
I began journaling again about a year ago. I have many notebooks to fill. I don’t always do it every day, but I commit ideas to paper more frequently. Writing by hand and in pen can sometimes be slow and painful, but it is worth it. I find that it helps me focus. It’s also a record of the happenings in my life. But I doubt anyone would ever find it interesting. It feels enjoyable again.