Yesterday a colleague told me one of his daily joys was reading the diary of Samuel Pepys. Every day my colleague gets an email containing the ‘current’ diary entry (the correct month and day, but from three and a half centuries earlier). I checked the website out and signed up too.
Pepys’ Diary is a brilliantly conceived website, the work of Londoner Philip Gyford. It’s been around for several years, hiding its light under a bushell. (The Times of London has only just discovered it too.)
From the website introduction: “This site is a presentation of the diaries of Samuel Pepys, the renowned 17th century diarist who lived in London, England (read more about him). A new entry written by Pepys will be published each day over the course of several years; 1 January 1660 was published on 1 January 2003.”
The diaries are searchable on the website, which also contains explanations of the Pepys world, articles about London and British history, contemporary politics, maps etc. Individual words, names, terms and so on are highlighted in the diary. Hover the cursor over highlighted words and you get drop-down explanations. Generally the language is easy to understand – Pepys is about 75 years closer to our time than William Shakespeare, and his writing is much closer to modern English.
Pepys is a serial philanderer who describes dalliances in his diary, initially all in English. Later he tends to hide the juicier details in the French language. Here’s one picaresque early example, from 29 June 1663:
“…and then came again to the Hall and fell to talk with Mrs. Lane, and after great talk that she never went abroad with any man as she used heretofore to do, I with one word got her to go with me and to meet me at the further Rhenish wine-house, where I did give her a Lobster and do so touse her and feel her all over, making her believe how fair and good a skin she has, and indeed she has a very white thigh and leg, but monstrous fat. When weary I did give over and somebody, having seen some of our dalliance, called aloud in the street, “Sir! why do you kiss the gentlewoman so?” and flung a stone at the window, which vexed me, but I believe they could not see my touzing her, and so we broke up and I went out the back way, without being observed I think…”