Monday, December 07, 2009


This is your conscience speaking

Halfway through Volume III of Pepys's Diary. And now I'm remembering what struck me the first time I attempted to read the Diary - during the second half of Volume II and well into Volume III, Pepys begins to show definite signs of introspection. Rather than simply chronicling his daily motions ("I did this, I did that"), he settles into his life and writing and begins to look within. And though he does admire himself in many respects, he doesn't always like what he sees.

"Having the beginning of this week made a vowe to myself to drink no wine this week (finding it to unfit me to look after business), and this day breaking of it against my will, I am much troubled for it - but I hope God will forgive me." (Volume II, p.142)

Mistrusting his wife, " own Jealousy put a hundred things into my minde which did much trouble me all day..." (II, p.173)

"So up to my chamber all alone. And troubled in mind to think how much of late I have addicted myself to expense and pleasure, that now I can hardly reclaime myself..." (II. p.174)

After seeing Twelfth Night alone "...went home with my mind troubled for my going thither, after my swearing to my wife that I would never go to a play without her." (II, p.177)

"I have newly taken a solemne oath about abstaining from plays and wine, which I am resolved to keep according to the letter of the oath, which I keepe by me." (II, p.242)

"...and so to the pewterers to buy a poore's box to put my forfeites in, upon breach of my late vowes." (Volume III, p.41)

"I find it a hard matter to settle to business after so much leisure and pleasure." (III, p.78)

A man of active conscience indeed. Need I say that at this point in his life, he falls off this wagon of his own making, hard and often. This is one of the most interesting aspects of the Diary thus far, to my mind - a man sinning and repenting, attempting to live with integrity with equal measures of success and failure, with great pride in his work and station in life yet in his private writings an acceptance that his pride is a frail thing at best, and indeed something to be kept constantly in check. Universal difficulties, are they not?

I'd hoped to be further along in my reading program, but life intervenes. Spent Saturday attending a friends-of-the-library sale nearby (two boxes of decent books, $45), then stopped at a church fair, did a few errands, and the day was past. Yesterday stayed closer to home, after the first significant snowfall of the year in these parts. Took a walk at noon, and did some cooking. Read a little. Stoked the stove, napped with the cat. Read a little more. And so to bed. (I had to say it, sometime.)

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