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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Pepys' Diary

I've recently finished "reading" a second audiobook as a distraction from rush hour traffic. The tape-tome loaned to me by my parents was Pepys' Diary, by Samuel Pepys (read by Kenneth Branagh).

For the most part, Pepys briskly chronicles the ordinary day-to-day events of his life as a Royal Navy administrator in seventeenth century London, and the events are as ordinary as one might expect:
Up and I to the office by water, then home to my wife for dinner, back to the office until dark, and then home and so to bed.
Okay, I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea. Listening to this, my mind drifted in and out as his ordinary experiences intermingled with mine, the exception being his description of The Great Fire of London (1666), which commands the listener's undivided attention as Pepys laments the destruction and describes his efforts to save his home and property.

Apart from the fire and his business dealings, much of the drama comes from the fact that Pepys was a man with an eye for the ladies. Amusingly, he tends to veer off into a strange Spanglish (with perhaps a bit of French thrown in) whenever he describes his extramarital affairs. I don't know if this is an unwillingness to openly acknowledge what he was doing, since he seemed to feel somewhat guilty about it (at times) or simply a code to prevent his wife from reading it if she should find his diary. Perhaps both.

He discontinued his diary in mid-1669 out of concern for his failing eyesight, but it seems a great source of information for anyone interested in English life during this period. I'm not sure I would have picked this up and read it in book form, but it made for fascinating listening and would probably be a good read (in the traditional sense) as well.

Overall, an interesting window into life in seventeenth century London juxtaposed by life in twenty-first century Texas crawling slowly along outside my car windows. And so I home, and to bed.

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