Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 53% Complete

First of all, a moment to celebrate.  I have officially passed the halfway mark in The Diary of Samuel Pepys.  I did not, however, make my goal of reaching that point by the end of the weekend, as by Sunday night I was only up to 48%.  But I buckled down on Monday and now stand firmly on the other side of the mark. 
In diary news, the plague is upon us.  One of the things Pepys's diary is most famous for is it's first-hand account of the great plague of London in the summer and early fall of 1665, and that is where I am reading at right now.
For a vocabulary word, I tried to find a plague-related term but I couldn't find one, so the word of the day is "debauchee" which is related to another noun with which I was already familiar: debauchery.  This word simply means "a person given to excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures." (definition directly from the New Oxford American Dictionary)
For today's quote I've actually chosen a few that have to do with the plague that is sweeping through London.  The notes in [brackets] are my own for clarification.   The first one is actually one of the very first references Pepys makes to the plague in June of 1665.  He writes:
"This day, much against my will, I did in Drury Lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and 'Lord have mercy upon us' writ there; which was a sad sight to me, being the first of the kind that, to my remembrance, I ever saw.  It put me into an ill conception of myself and my smell, so that I was forced to buy some roll-tobacco to smell and chaw, which took away the apprehension."
Then later in the summer he writes:
"The sicknesse is got into our parish this week, and is got, indeed, every where; so that I begin to think of setting things in order, which I pray God enable me to put both as to soul and body."
And still later:
"The people die so, that now it seems they are fain [forced] to carry the dead to be buried by day-light, the nights not sufficing to do it in.  And my Lord Mayor commands people to be within at nine at night all, as they say, that the sick may have liberty to go abroad [outside] for ayre."
A few days later he fears a run-in himself with these processions to bury the dead and he writes:
"Thence with a lanthorn, in great fear of meeting of dead corpses carried to be buried; but, blessed be God, met none, but did see now and then a linke [a torch] (which is the mark of them) at a distance."
I certainly am grateful we have no such plague here and now.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 45% Complete

Well, to be perfectly honest, I've been putting off writing a blog entry until I buckled down and did some more reading, but I finally came to my senses and decided that that's not what this blog is for.  I'm not here to impress you all with my reading skills but to share my journey, the ups and and the downs.  So in terms of numbers, this week has been a down.  The truth is, I'm getting a little discouraged by the length of this book.  I feel like I've spent so many hours and hours reading it and I'm not even halfway done.
Now, having said that, my plan is to reach the halfway mark by the end of this weekend.  That should be doable, I think.
The vocabulary word for today is a political term: "prorogation" which means to discontinue a session of parliament or another legislative assembly without dissolving it. 
Today's quote is a long one, but rather funny, I think.  Ever since the beginning the of the journal, (and presumably before that, as well) Pepys and his wife have been trying to have a baby.  They were never successful at this, and some historians speculate that a surgery Pepys had for kidney stones as a young man may have left him infertile.  So in this passage Pepys asks a group of his male friends for some advice on getting his wife pregnant, and they give him a ten point list that reads as follows:
"...(1) Do not hug my wife too hard nor too much; (2) eat no late suppers; (3) drink juyce of sage; (4) tent and toast; (5) wear cool holland drawers; (6) keep stomach warm and back cool (7) upon query whether it was best to do at night or morn, they answered me neither one nor other, but when we had most mind to it; (8) wife not to go too straight laced; (9) myself to drink mum and sugar; (10) Mrs. Ward did give me, to change my place.  The 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, and 10th they all did seriously declare, and lay much stress upon them as rules fit to be observed indeed, and especially the last, to lie with our heads where our heels do, or at least to make the bed high at feet and low at head."
I'm not even sure what number four means, and the rest are more comical to me than practical, except maybe seven and eight, which actually might be good advice.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 43% Complete

I'm getting closer to the half way mark in this book!  On a less literary note, though, 6 Years, 45,000 Pages officially has both a Twitter account and a Facebook page!  The links to both can be found on the right side of this page.  I'm going to try to post daily updates on percentage (unless there is nothing to report) as well as notices when there is a new blog entry.  So like me and follow me there!
Today's vocabulary word is the word "baize" which is a type of fabric, similar to felt, that is often used to cover billiard tables and card tables.  Pepys has clothes made out of it, but it seems that is uncommon now.  I found this interesting because I had always supposed (silly me!) that card and billiard tables were just covered in felt, but now I know better!
I chose today's quote simply because I thought it was very eloquent and insightful as well as a little morbidly funny.  In this passage Pepys's younger brother, Tom, has just died, apparently from small pox.  So Pepys writes:
"...So to my brother's and to church, and with the grave-maker chose a place for my brother to lie in, just under my mother's pew.  But to see how a man's tombes are at the mercy of such a fellow, that for sixpence he would, (as his owne words were,) 'I will justle them together but I will make room for him;' speaking of the fulness of the middle isle, where he was to lie; and that he would, for my father's sake, do my brother that is dead all the civility he can; which was to disturb other corps that are not quite rotten, to make room for him; and methought his manner of speaking it was very remarkable; as of a thing that now was in his power to do a man a courtesy or not."
NOTE: When I type these quotes I try to replicate them exactly as the text in my copy of the book has them.  Pepys's diaries were originally written in a sort of shorthand and were then translated at a later time.  The spelling is often nonstandard and I have left them the way they were.  Also, he writes in very long sentences sometimes, so in this case I have begun the quote in the middle of a sentence in order to make it more readable.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 36% Complete

So once again I slacked off a bit on my reading during the week.  I think this is just a reality which I'm going to have to live with.  At least on the weekends I generally catch up a bit.  And I'm still ahead of schedule, so it's okay.  So I'm now up to 36% of the way through the diary.  It feels like I've been reading and reading and reading this book for so long and yet I still have a long, long way to go.  But it is still fascinating to me and the fact that it is so long means that I am really getting my head into his world in a way I wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
Today's word is "perfidious" which means deceitful and untrustworthy.  My dictionary has the words POETIC/LITERARY before the definition.  When Pepys and his wife got into a fight (which they did fairly regularly), she called him a perfidious man, something he is quite insulted by.  In 1660's England even their fights were poetic.
In our quote for today, the Russian ambassador (Pepys spells it embassador) comes to London and Pepys has the opportunity to see his procession coming through the streets.  He writes,
"I could not see the Embassador in his coach; but his attendants in their habits and fur caps very handsome, comely men, and most of them with hawkes upon their fists to present to the King.  But Lord! to see the absurd nature of Englishmen, that cannot forbear laughing and jeering at everything that looks strange."

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 33% Complete

Again, the weekend worked wonders for my reading percentage.  I'm now up to 33%, officially 1/3 of the way there!  And the weather here in Seattle is terrible again, which really makes me want to do nothing but read a good book.
Today for our vocabulary word we have an interesting word and an etymology of an interesting phrase.  While reading the diary, I came across the term "umble pie."  Of course I immediately thought, as you probably did, of the phrase "humble pie."  But in this context Pepys was referring to an actual pie, one which he ate.  So I looked it up, and "umbles" (sometimes also "numbles") is an archaic term for the entrails of an animal, especially a deer, used for food.  So then I looked up the etymology of "humble pie" and it is, or was, a pun with umble pie, which was a cheap (for obvious reasons!) pie often eaten by poor people.
Our quote for today requires a bit of back story.  In 1663, when this portion of the diary was written, the King of England was Charles II.  His wife was Catherine of Braganza.  Charles, like virtually all his peers, was not a faithful husband and in fact had at least twelve illegitimate children, while having none with his wife.  One of his favorite mistresses was Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine, whom Pepys refers to as "my Lady Castlemaine."   In order to be near his lady friend, Charles ordered his wife to make Lady Castlemaine one of her ladies-in-waiting.   So Pepys writes:
"A gentleman in our company...confirms my Lady Castlemaine's being gone from Court, but knows not the reason; he told us of one wipe the Queen a little while ago did give her, when she came in and found the Queen under the dresser's hands, and had been so long: 'I wonder your Majesty,' says she, 'can have the patience to sit so long a-dressing?' -- 'I have so much reason to use patience,' says the Queen, 'that I can very well bear with it.'"
Although Pepys is a fan of Lady Castlemaine, I found myself cheering here for the scorned wife and her little biting comment.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 23% Complete

Well, I'll be honest, I flagged a little in my reading during this week.  Two of my three classes this quarter, medical anthropology and philosophy, require quite a bit of reading, so Tuesday and Wednesday I didn't get much reading done.  But I'm moving forward and I'm still ahead of schedule, so I'm not going to beat myself up over it.

I've finished 23% of The Diary of Samuel Pepys which means I've read over 623 pages.  I'm still enjoying it a lot.

For vocabulary words, I've tried to only focus on learning new words, not archaic definitions of words I already know, simply because they're not so useful to me.  But the archaic definitions of words I know are quite fascinating, so today, you're going to get two vocabulary words.  The first is the word "unready" as in, "I went into the room to get unready."  The meaning is the same as "undressing."  At first this seems strange, but it actually makes a lot of sense.  We use "ready" and "dressed" synonymously all the time, so to use their antonyms synonymously makes perfect sense as well.

The second and "more serious" vocabulary word is "preferment", meaning a promotion or appointment to a position or office.  I was really excited about this word because I came across it in the book, looked it up and wrote it down, and then later, I ran across it again.  I love it when this happens because then I can say, "Ah ha! I know what that word means now!" It's very exciting for little nerdy people like me.  And yes, I do say, "Ah ha!" with dramatic hand gestures and everything.

I also had two quotes I wanted to share, one short and one long, so consider this a double entry today.  First of all, Samuel Pepys often recalls stories that he has been told by other people, often friends of friends that are visiting from other places, etc.  Very often these stories seem quite fantastical to me, and I have a feeling there were even more urban legends floating around then than there are now.  And they couldn't look them up on Snopes.com, so what could you do?  In this story, which is more believable, one of Pepys's friends has a friend visiting from Poland and Pepys writes:

"This day among other stories he told me how despicable a thing it is to be a hangman in Poland, although it be a place of credit.  And that, in his time, there was some repairs to be made of the gallows there, which was very fine of stone; but nobody could be got to mend it till the Burgomaster, or Mayor of the town, with all the companies of those trades which were necessary to be used about those repairs, did go in their habits with flags, in solemn procession to the place, and there the Burgomaster did give the first blow with the hammer upon the wooden work; and the rest of the Masters of the Companys upon the works belonging to their trades; that so workmen might not be ashamed to be employed upon doing of the gallows' work."

Talk about red tape!

The second, shorter quote, is simply this:

"[Mr. Brian] tells me, that it is believed the Queen is with child, for that the coaches are ordered to ride very easily through the streets."

It just reminded me of all the speculation and rumors that right now surround Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge regarding her possible, supposed, or theoretical pregnancies or lack thereof.  Apparently royal baby watch has been going on for a long time!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 19% complete

I was able to get quite a bit of reading done over the weekend, so I'm now finished with 19% of The Diary of Samuel Pepys.  So here's another new word (for me...I'm sure many people have a larger vocabulary than do I) and another quote which I enjoyed from the book.

One thing I've noticed in gathering vocabulary words from this book, is that many of the words are ones which I am already familiar with, but they are being used in a way which is unfamiliar.  So today's word is "fondness" which I know to mean affection or caring.  However, there is another definition of this word that means foolishness, and Pepys uses it in this sense on a couple of occasion.

The quote of the day refers to one of Pepys's friends, Mr. Butler, whom Pepys refers to often as Monsieur L'Impertinent.  Pepys writes:

"I went with [Mr. Henson] to the Swan Tavern and sent for Mr. Butler, who was now all full of his high discourse in praise of Ireland, whither he and his whole family are going by Coll. Dillon's persuasion, but so many lies I never heard in praise of anything as he told of Ireland."

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 7% Complete

As the title implies, I am 7% finished with The Diary of Samuel Pepys.  There are no "real" page numbers in the Kindle version (some Kindle books have page numbers that correspond the way they are viewed on the Kindle and some do not.), so percentage is really the only way of measuring my progress through this work.  Roughly, seven percent corresponds to about 190 pages.  Still a long way to go, but it's a start! 

I'm still working out the best way to keep you all updated and interested as this project progresses (if you have any fun ideas for kinds of things I could post, let me know!) but here's what I'm thinking so far.  First of all, I'm always learning new vocabulary words as I read these books and I try to keep a list of them, especially now that I have the Kindle with it's handy-dandy built-in dictionary.  So I think I will try to post a new word that I've learned every few days. 

Second, Kindle also has an amazing feature (and no, Kindle is not paying me to plug their product, but they should be!) that lets you highlight quotes that you like from the book and it automatically saves them in a special file of sorts.  I love this because I always find quotes I like but I'm usually too lazy to copy them down by hand in any one place.  So I think I'll try to share some quotes with you as well.

First for vocabulary.  The word of the day is "cicatrix" whose definition is, quite simply, "the scar of a healed wound."  I love this word not only because of it's musical quality but because it is nearly idential to the Spanish word for scar: cicatriz

And for a quote: Mr. Pepys writes, "This morning came home my fine Camlett coat with gold buttons and a silk suit, which cost me much money, and I pray God to make me able to pay for it."

I liked that quote because there are certainly people here and now who are buying clothes they can ill afford and then praying to God to let them be able to pay for them.  Some things haven't changed!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Starting: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

The first book I am attempting is The Diary of Samuel Pepys (pronounced "peeps" like the marshmallow animals). 

Samuel Pepys was a naval administrator and an MP (member of Parliament) in England in the 17th century.  He kept a fairly extensive diary from 1660 until 1669 which is notable for it's eyewitness accounts of the Great Plague of London (one of the last pandemics of the bubonic plague that killed over 20% of London's population) and the Great Fire of London. 

There are abridged versions of the diary as well as the "complete" version which I am reading.  I put complete in quotes because, for some reason, it does not actually contain every word, but it is very nearly complete.  The version I'm reading on my Kindle can be found here.

The complete diary clocks in at a whopping 2711 pages and after two and a half days of reading, I've finished 4% according to my Kindle.  The language is not as difficult as I supposed it might be; it's fairly straight forward.  I do wish, however, that I had a firmer grasp of British politics during this period, as he regularly refers to things of which I have no knowledge.  As with all old diaries I've read, I'm enjoying the particularly human parts; those parts that make you say, "Ah, I know exactly what he means," or, "Well, some things haven't changed in the last 350 years."  There are certainly some dull parts, but I am enjoying it so far.

More updates to come!

About Me

So who am I?  Well, my name is Anna, at the moment I am 24 years old as you may have deduced from the date of my 30th birthday.  I live in Seattle, Washington State where I am a pre-nursing (taking required prerequisites for nursing school) student at a local community college.  I have always been a voracious reader and I have read many classics but I still felt like there were so many that I hadn't read.  Hence the project!