2.11.2006

pepys

Since January 2003, I have been reading The Diary of Samuel Pepys, online, at PepysDiary.com.

Samuel Pepys (pronounced "peeps") lived in London, England, in the 17th Century. For ten years, he kept a meticulous diary, a highly unusual concept for its day. Pepys - or Sam, as the diary readers all call him - wrote about the major political, religious and military events of the time, as well as the mundane dealings of every day life - food and drink, servants and neighbours, family feuds and marital spats. Luckily for us, Sam was a man of endless curiosity. He loved new inventions and innovations, and he loved books, music, theatre and art. (He also loved women.) The Diary of Samuel Pepys is a literary landmark, a great repository of history and a treasure trove of 17th Century London life.

A little more than three years ago, the incomparable Phil Gyford had the idea to put the entire diary online. Like many people, Gyford had wanted to read Pepys' diary but was intimidated by its massive length. Using the most recent version of the Diary that is in the public domain (that is, no longer copyright protected), Gyford decided to post an entry each day, to read the work in manageable bits, and to encourage others to read along.

It's been a huge success. The site is now inhabited by a regular group of readers and annotators who explain, augment and discuss entries. Some are experts in various fields that relate to the diary, some are amateur historians, most are just interested readers. Through the work of Phil and all the annotators, the characters are all linked with bios and all manner of background information is explicated.

This is the main diary site, here's an FAQ, and the "story so far" page can bring you up to date. Here's an NPR interview with Phil Gyford shortly after he began the site, and another from the BBC.

I read the Diary weekly, catching up on entries for the past week as if they were a chapter in a novel. And why did I post this today? From the entry for Friday 6 February 1663:
And so to a bookseller’s in the Strand, and there bought Hudibras again, it being certainly some ill humour to be so against that which all the world cries up to be the example of wit; for which I am resolved once again to read him, and see whether I can find it or no.
You know who I immediately thought of, right? Hudibras is Sam's Rick Mercer!

4 comments:

redsock said...

Ha!

It looks like Samuel Butler wrote "Hudibras".

Hudibras was written between 1660 and 1680 and is a satire on the Cromwellians and on the Presbyterian church written by a confirmed Royalist and Anglican. Hudibras, a colonel in the Cromwellian army, is involved in various comic misadventures and is shown to be stupid, greedy and dishonest. The poem is very well written in Chaucerian couplets and was popular for about 150 years, as long as its political attitudes were also popular.

Did Butler also walk through back alleys at an angle, speaking his couplets quickly, semi-smirking as if said couplets were oh-so-clever? :>)

L-girl said...

Here's the Diary site's link on ole' Hudi.

Did Butler also walk through back alleys at an angle, speaking his couplets quickly, semi-smirking as if said couplets were oh-so-clever?

And don't forget the graffiti! That's what gave Sam Butler his cutting edge.

James said...

The Goon Show did a nice spoof of Pepys in the episode "The Flea" (Dec 20, 1956), in which Ned Seagoon as Pepys constantly inserts the phrase "Did sport with Mrs. Fitzsimmons" in his narrations...

Pepys is also very important in science history, since he was the publisher of Newton's Principia Mathematica. He even has a math problem named after him: the Newton-Pepys Problem.

L-girl said...

Pepys is also very important in science history, since he was the publisher of Newton's Principia Mathematica. He even has a math problem named after him: the Newton-Pepys Problem.

Cool! I remember something about Newton in the annotations, but didn't remember what it was. The publication was after the Diary is finished.

I forgot to link to the Wikipedia entry on Pepys - which I'm glad to see references PepysDiary.com.