Friday, November 30, 2012

Barchester Towers: Beginning

The next book up is Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope.  In terms of the numbers, the Kindle copy I have of this book is 599 pages long and can be found for free here.
This book was published in 1857 and is actually the second book in the "Chronicles of Barsetshire" series by Trollope.  The first book in the series is called The Warden and I considered reading that first, but Barchester Towers is more well-known and from what I've heard from other people, can be read as a stand-alone book as well.  So it's the only work of Trollope's on my list.
The story follows the lives of the leading clergy members of the cathedral town of Barchester, England.  Unlike many of the other books on my list, I'm not very familiar with this story, so it will be interesting to go into it with no real knowledge of it.  According to Wikipedia, the story is a sort of satire concerning the antipathy in the Church of England between the High Church and the Evangelical followers. 
Trollope himself was actually a postal worker in his early days as a novelist and apparently used letters from the "lost letter" box for ideas for his early works.

As far as film adaptations, the BBC put out versions of The Warden and Barchester Towers together as The Barchester Chronicles in 1982 starring Alan Rickman.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pygmalion: 100% Complete

I had a dream last night that I discovered I had been misspelling Pygmalion in all my blog posts and I woke up in a cold sweat.  But, rest assured, I have been spelling it correctly. 
In other news, I finished it! I've finished three books now, only ninety-seven to go!
I really liked this play.  It was short and easy to read and often funny but it also certainly had a deeper meaning.  The point I think Shaw was trying to make was that women are not objects to be treated as a possession, but they are people to care about and love and if you don't do that, you're a misogynistic jerk.  The philosophy of a woman as an object was voiced by both Henry Higgins and Eliza's father, Mr. Doolittle at various points throughout the play.  Neither Higgins nor Mr. Doolittle were sympathetic characters and thus their opinions are opposite the point that Shaw was trying to get across.
I have three quotes from the play that illustrate this attitude toward women.  The first is something Mr. Doolittle says to Henry Higgins at the beginning when Higgins first "adopts" Eliza.
"Take my advice, Governor: marry Eliza while she's young and don't know no better.  If you don't you'll be sorry for it after.  If you do, she'll be sorry for it after; but better you than her, because you're a man, and she's only a woman and don't know how to be happy anyhow."
The second quote is from Henry talking to Eliza during an argument they're having once she has transformed into a "duchess":
"You've had a thousand times as much out of me as I have out of you; and if you dare to set up your little dog's tricks of fetching and carrying slippers against my creation of a Duchess Eliza, I'll slam the door in your silly face."
And finally, the last line in the book, from Shaw's epilogue to the play.  To understand this, you have to know that Galatea was the name of the statue that Pygmalion created and subsequently fell in love with.
"Galatea never does quite like Pygmalion: his relation to her is too godlike to be altogether agreeable."
Next up? Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pygmalion: 68% Complete

I'm just flying through this play; it's just so short! But I am enjoying it a lot.  It's very light reading but there's certainly a lot of deeper points being made about men "owning" women and women's right to be treated as something other than property.
The vocabulary word for today is "plinth" which is "a heavy base supporting a statue or vase or the lower square slab at the base of a column" (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary)
I have two quotes for today, both of which relate to the English language.  I'm a lover of English myself, so I especially appreciated these two.  The first is from the preface.  Shaw writes:
"The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it.  They spell it so abominably that no man can teach himself what it sounds like.  It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.  German and Spanish are accessible to foreigners: English is not accessible even to Englishmen."
The second quote comes from the mouth of Henry Higgins, who is railing against Eliza's pronunciation and usage of the language.
"A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere--no right to live.  Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespear and Milton and The Bible; and don't sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon."
Although I'm pretty sure you can't say that English is the language of the Bible, he does have a point!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pygmalion: Beginning

On Saturday I started reading Pygmalion (I'm a little behind on the blog entries) by George Bernard Shaw.  Before I start giving you delicious quotes and vocabulary words from this book, I thought I'd give you a little background.
Pygmalion is a play published in 1912 by George Bernard Shaw.  It's a short little thing, only around a hundred pages.  Most of you are probably more familiar with the Broadway musical and subsequent film version, both called My Fair Lady.  If you're not, the story goes something like this:
Henry Higgins is a diction coach and professor of phonetics in London.  After meeting a young flower girl on the streets named Eliza Doolittle, who has a cockney accent that he finds horrifying, he makes a bet with his friend Colonel Pickering that with six months of lessons, mostly speech lessons, he can pass her off as a duchess at a ball.
The title comes from the Greek myth of a sculptor named Pygmalion who falls in love with a statue he creates.  He entreats the goddess Venus to turn her into a living woman, a wish she grants, and then he marries her.  This, of course, is a reference to Henry Higgins "creating" Eliza.
This story is significant for a number of reasons.  First of all, from a pop culture perspective, it is entertaining and gave rise to a wonderful play and movie.  Secondly, it is without a doubt a social commentary on the role of women in society, an aspect which was somewhat lost in the adaptations, I feel.  You'll notice, if you're a history buff like me, that this piece was published right at the height of the women's suffrage movement in England. Thirdly, the play, although it is originally set in London and contains the London-specific idea of a cockney girl who learns to speak properly, has had remarkable success being adapted in a variety of languages and countries which proves that class structure and language as a function of that is a very culturally universal phenomenon and one that people can relate to all over the world.
I expect this will only take me a couple of days to read, as it is so short, but I'll try to fit in a couple more blog entries about it!

A little detour...

So I took a little break over the weekend to read something not on my list.  Now before you get too horrified, it was related to the project.  The book was What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool and my mom loaned it to me.
The book answers all those questions that you run across while reading nineteenth century British literature (such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters and many more).  If you've ever wanted to know how Lizzy Bennet would have dressed for the Netherfield Ball or how to play whist or how the British currency system worked or why Mr. Wickham and Lydia were possibly headed for Gretna Green (and where the heck that is) then this book is for you.  In fact, I think I'm going to buy a copy for myself because I know I'm going to want to reference it as I read through the rest of my list.  In fact, even though the book is aimed at nineteenth century, it actually explained several things that I was wondering about when I read The Diary of Samuel Pepys
But I finished the book in an afternoon (it's not real long and the last third or so is just a glossary which I skimmed but didn't read) and now I'm back to the classics, namely Pygmalion.  More to come on that probably later today.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pride and Prejudice: 100% Complete

I did it! Now I've finished two books; only 98 more to go! Lizzy and Mr. Darcy, and Jane and Mr. Bingley got happily married after all, so that was gratifying.
A few final reflection on Pride and Prejudice.  First of all, I thought it must be significant that Jane Austen named the oldest Bennet sister after herself.  Everything in this book was done in a very deliberate and purposeful way, so it seems unlikely that she just picked her own name for this character in a random way.  Did she see Jane Bennet as similar to herself?  Or did she wish to be more like Jane?  Or was Jane perhaps her favorite character?  I wish I knew the answer to this.
Secondly, I thought about the meaning of the title: Pride and Prejudice.  I always thought that, like another of Austen's famous books: Sense and Sensability, the pride referred to one character and the prejudice to another.  As Lizzy and Mr. Darcy are arguably the main characters, it seems reasonable that one of them suffers from pride and the other from prejudice.  But as I read the book, I couldn't figure out which was which.  I think you could make a case for Mr. Darcy's shortcoming being pride and Lizzy's being prejudice, and perhaps this is the obvious pairing, but I think it could also be argued that Mr. Darcy suffers equally from prejudice and Lizzy from pride.  So perhaps that is the beauty of the title after all.
Thirdly, when I started reading this book, my mom told me that when I was finished she wanted me to tell her what I thought Jane Austen's main point with this book was.  I thought about it a lot as I was reading the book, and I think there are two.  The first is that we have to stop focusing on what other people are doing wrong and look at our own faults first.  Lizzy especially spends quite a lot of time in the book judging other people, often rightly so, but it takes her a long time to see her own faults.  And, in fact, many of the faults that she accuses other people of, are faults which she has herself.  The second is that when people point out your shortcomings, you have to stop being defensive and actually listen.  The main difference between the "good" characters in the book (with the exception of Jane and Mr. Bingley who apparently have no faults) and the "bad" characters, is that the good characters take criticism to heart and are thus able to change and the bad characters don't.
So that wraps up book number two.  Next up? Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pride and Prejudice: 71% Complete

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving! I got a lot of reading done on football commercial breaks yesterday so I'm up to 71% now.  I'm still hoping to be done by Monday, but we'll see how that goes.
The vocabulary word for today is "obeisance" which means "differential respect." (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary)
Today's quote is funny and it serves a very useful purpose in the book.  Lizzy Bennet has three younger sisters, two of whom: Lydia and Kitty, are very vain and flirtatious and are constantly making a spectacle of themselves.  At the beginning of the book, even though their actions are mentioned, Jane Austen doesn't put a lot of focus on the negativity of those actions.  But by this point in the story, Lizzy has just gotten a letter from Mr. Darcy which, in part, gave a scathing review of her sisters' behavior.  And now, it seems, Lizzy is finally noticing their impropriety and it becomes more of a focus.  This passage is the first meeting that Lizzy has with Kitty and Lydia after receiving Mr. Darcy's letter.  Lizzy and her sister Jane are traveling home and they stop for the night.   Austen writes:
"...As they drew near the appointed inn where Mr. Bennet's carriage was to meet them, they quickly perceived, in token of the coachman's punctuality, both Kitty and Lydia looking out of a dining room upstairs.  These two girls had been above an hour in the place, happily employed in visiting an opposite milliner, watching a sentinel on guard, and dressing a salad and cucumber.  After welcoming their sisters, they triumphantly displayed a table set out with such cold meat as an inn larder usually affords, exclaiming, 'Is not this nice? Is not this an agreeable surprise?'  'And we mean to treat you all,' added Lydia, 'but you must lend us the money, for we have just spent ours at the shop out there.'  Then, showing her purchases--'Look here, I have bought this bonnet.  I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not.  I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, and see if I can make it up any better.'"

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pride and Prejudice: 51% Complete

First of all, I want to wish all my American readers a very safe and happy Thanksgiving.  This year I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to learn how to read, that I learned to love reading from an early age, and that I have the time and resources available to read through some of the most amazing books every written.

I'm past the halfway point in Pride and Prejudice! I have a pretty low-key Thanksgiving weekend coming up, so I think I might finish this book by Monday next week.  I still have not decided what I'm going to read next.  If you have any thoughts on that subject, feel free to leave a comment!
The vocabulary word of the day is "palings" which is "a fence made from pointed wooden or metal stakes." (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary)

As I've been reading through this, I find myself inevitably comparing the book to the film versions that I have seen.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, so far the 1995 BBC version has been very accurate, but one difference I've noticed is that Lizzy's character in the book is a little more outspoken or even impudent at times.  Although she's often right, and usually entertaining, sometimes she seems almost too concerned with talking back to people, which I didn't feel like from her character in the movie.  One of my favorite rants of hers is a well-deserved talking-to that she gives Mr. Darcy, after his first, disastrous proposal of marriage.   She says,
"From the very beginning--from the first moment, I may almost say--of my acquaintance with you, your manners,  impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pride and Prejudice: 44% Complete

The weather here in Seattle has gotten nasty, and with a long, Thanksgiving weekend coming up, I'm expecting to get this book finished before the weekend.  I still haven't decided what to read next; I might dive into the five-volume Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.  But we'll see. Of course Pride and Prejudice is still absolutely lovely.
The vocabulary word I have for you today is "ablution" which "is the act of washing oneself"(definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary), which you could easily do just by venturing outside here in Seattle!
The quote for today is one which I don't remember from the movie but which I especially liked. Just as a side note, so far the 1995 BBC miniseries of this book has been remarkably accurate and complete with regards to the story; virtually every scene from the book is in the film, often word-for-word the same.  In this quote, Lizzy has just been invited by her aunt and uncle to go on a summer tour with them to the Lake Country.  She responds as follows,
"Oh, my dear, dear aunt," she rapturously cried, "what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are young men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of anything.  We will know where we have gone--we will recollect what we have seen.  Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarreling about its relative situation.  Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travellers."
Some of those phenomena she describes with regards to travelers returning from vacation are very familiar to me! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pride and Prejudice: 39% Complete

I'm enjoying this book so much that I'm considering going straight into Sense and Sensibility next.  But I might have to space out my Jane Austen throughout the project.  I can't believe it took me twenty-four (well, more like nineteen) years of reading to get around to this one!
The vocabulary word of the day is "diffident" which means "modest or shy because of a lack of self-confidence"(definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).
Today I got to read the passage that one of my favorite scenes in the movie is based off of: Lizzy's refusal of Mr. Collins's proposal and Mr. Bennet's subsequent reaction.  For those of you who have not seen the movie or read the book, Mr. Collins is the Bennet's cousin and he is heir to Mr. Bennet's estate.  He is pompous, self-centered, uncouth, and frankly obnoxious, but he is in a good financial position and when he sets his sights on Lizzy, Mrs. Bennet is thrilled with the idea.  Lizzy, however, is not quite so excited, so when he proposes to her, she refuses him immediately.  Mrs. Bennet is outraged and tells her husband that he must make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins.  Mr. Bennet dutifully sends for Lizzy, and asks her if it is indeed true that Mr. Collins has proposed and that she has refused.  Lizzy confirms this, and Mr. Bennet says,
"Your mother insists upon your accepting it.  Is it not so, Mrs. Bennet?"
"Yes, or I will never see her again."
"An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth.  From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents.  Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do."
This made me want to cheer for Mr. Bennet, for recognizing that Lizzy would never be happy with the insufferable Mr. Collins, and for his humorous way of standing up to his wife.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pride and Prejudice: 27% Complete

I'm just plugging along! I find myself trying to read more slowly so the book will last longer, but no such luck! I'm just loving it so much and I know, from past experience, that nothing ever replaces reading a great book the first time.
The vocabulary word I have for you today is "probity" which is "the quality of having strong moral principles."  (definition from the New Oxford American Dictionary)
The quote for today relates somewhat to the vocabulary word (I know, gasp!) and is about one of my favorite characters in the book, the oldest Bennet sister: Jane.  She is sweet and unassuming and always reading to think well of anyone and everyone.  In this particular passage, her sister, Lizzy, is recounting a story that puts two of the characters, Mr. Wickham and Mr. Darcy, at odds with one another.  It's clear that either Mr. Wickham is lying or Mr. Darcy is a terrible person but Jane is determined to find some middle ground between the two.  Austen writes:
"...Nothing remained therefore to be done, but to think well of them both, to defend the conduct of each, and throw into the account of accident or mistake whatever could not be otherwise explained."
I like Jane and this passage in particular mostly because I find myself doing the same thing, often to a fault: trying to think well of people even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pride and Prejudice: 18% Complete

I'm a good section into Pride and Prejudice and I'm loving it so far! One of the main things in the beginning of the book, for some of the characters at least, is how much money the eligible gentlemen bachelors have per year.  The girls' father, Mr. Bennet, is described as having two thousand pounds per year, the charming Mr. Bingley has four or five thousand, and Mr. Darcy has an astonishing ten thousand a year!  Of course I have no point of reference for how much this is, but, thanks to a lovely little web page, run by Eric Nye from the University of Wyoming, you can convert from historical British pounds (by year) into modern American dollars.  It's a completely ingenious site and I am indebted to Mr. Nye for setting it up.  If you wish to do your own conversions, you can check the page out here.
So how much are Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy worth anyway?  If we assume that this book takes place at the same time that it was published (1813) then Mr. Bingley has between $250,000 and $325,000 a year, compared with Mr. Bennet's $130,000.  The wealthy Mr. Darcy comes in at about $650,000 a year.  I was a little surprised by these numbers, to be honest.  While these amounts of money are clearly in the "well-off" range, when I think of wealth and family fortunes in these old British days, I imagine it to be more than that (with the exception perhaps of Mr. Darcy's money...that's getting closer to what I was imagining).  Now you do have to take into account the fact that some people, like Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bennet, I believe, owned their houses and didn't have to pay any mortgage or anything, which gives them more disposable income.  Mr. Bingley is renting his house at Netherfield, however.
The first Austen vocabulary word I have for you is "strictures" which, in the context which I found it, means "a sternly critical or censorious remark or instruction."(definition from the New Oxford American Dictionary).
I only have a short little quote today, but one that I found funny.  One thing I'm liking about Jane Austen is how, from the very first line, she puts in tongue-in-cheek remarks which are clearly not her own opinion but those of some of the characters.  Here Mr. Bingley has enthusiastically accepted an invitation to a ball, to the delight of some of the women, and Austen writes:
"To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley's heart were entertained."
Because, of course, if you like dancing then you surely must be about to fall in love!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pride and Prejudice: Beginning

The second book I'm going to read is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  The Kindle edition I'm reading can be found here.
This book was published in 1813 and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide since then.  It is one of the most popular English-language books ever written.  In 2003, the BBC conducted a poll for the "UK's Best-Loved Books" and Pride and Prejudice came in second behind Lord of the Rings.
It is the story of the five Bennett sisters, especially Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bennett, and their quests to find love and fortune in England at the turn of the 19th century.  The copy I have is 258 pages so I expect to finish this in the next week or two, which will be quite a contrast compared to The Diary of Samuel Pepys
This book has inspired a seemingly unlimited number of derivative works, from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith, which takes the original text and adds zombies, to many various sequels.  There are also multiple film and television adaptations, of which my favorite is the 1995 BBC miniseries (although I am generally an advocate of reading a book before seeing the movie, in this case I have not followed my own advice).

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 100% Complete

With a whole week to spare, I finished The Diary of Samuel Pepys, all 2711 pages of it! (for a point of reference, that's about 3 1/2 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix's or Breaking Dawn's) One book down, ninety-nine to go!

I was a little sad to finish it, I must admit.  After reading his daily thoughts and musings for nine years of his life, I really felt like I knew him in some way.  This sadness was compounded by the fact that he stopped writing in the diary with much reluctance at the age of thirty six because of his failing eyesight.

As far as my views on the entire piece, I'm so glad I read it.  From now on, whenever I read or hear about something during this time period, I will forever think of Samuel Pepys and the world in which he lived.  I was particularly struck by the commonality that I found in it, how even though the world we live in is dramatically different in many ways, there is so much similarity both in things that are human nature and even in things that are culturally constructed.  Perhaps that sense of universality is what makes this book so timeless.

For one final Pepysian vocabulary word, I have "legerdemain" which means, "skillful use of one's hands when performing conjuring tricks." (definition from the New Oxford American Dictionary).

The last two quotes of Pepys's that I have for you both relate to his appreciation of art, which, for him, is very much an emotional love, rather than an intellectual appreciation.  In the first he goes to a play, as he often does, and is struck by the music he hears.

"But that which did please me beyond any thing in, the whole world was the wind-musique when the angel comes down, which is so sweet that it ravished me, and indeed, in a word, did wrap up my soul so that it made me really sick, just as I have formerly been when in love with my wife; that neither then, nor all the evening going home, and at home, I was able to think of any thing, but remained all night transported, so as I could not believe that any musick hath that real command over the soul of a man as this did upon me: and makes me resolve to practice wind-musique, and to make my wife do the like."

This quote reminded me very much of one from Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing in which Benedick says of music: "Now, divine air! now is his soul ravished! Is it not strange that sheeps' guts should hale souls out of men's bodies?"

In the second quote he writes:

"But by accident he did direct us to a painter that was then in the house with him, a Dutchman, newly come over, one Evarelst, who took us to his lodging close by, and did shew us a little flower-pot of his doing, the finest thing that ever, I think, I saw in my life; the drops of dew hanging on the leaves, so as I was forced, again and again, to put my finger to it, to feel whether my eyes were deceived or no."

According to some research I did, the painter  he mentions is actually Simon Pietersz Verelst, a Dutch still-life painter famous for his paintings of flowers (Pepys is always terrible at spelling names).  Although I don't think there is any way to know which painting Pepys saw, here is a picture of one of Verelst's paintings that perhaps resembles the one Pepys described.
So that concludes Pepys! Up next: Pride and Prejudice!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 93% Complete

I'm almost done! I certainly should be able to finish by Thanksgiving now. 
Today's word is "cerecloth" which is "a waxed cloth typically used for wrapping a corpse" (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).  Pepys, however, uses it to wrap his foot when it's painful.
Today I have two quotes for you which both relate to gambling, something Pepys comments on quite often.  In both he seems to have insightful things to say on the subject, which is why I liked these quotes.
" is strange to see how people of this poor rank, that look as if they had not bread to put in their mouths, shall bet three or four pounds [this calculates to between $500 and $700 in today's money] at one bet, and lose it, and yet bet as much the next battle (so they call every match of two cocks), so that one of them will lose L10 or L20 at a meeting."
In this second quote, Pepys is at a tavern where there is gambling going on.  He writes,
"And so I, having enough for once, refusing to venture, though Brisband pressed me hard, and tempted me with saying that no man was ever known to lose the first time, the devil being too cunning to discourage a gamester."
I particularly liked that last line: "The devil being too cunning to discourage a gamester."  Apparently "beginner's luck" is not a new concept!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 83% Complete

I did it! I made it to 80% and then some! I actually feel like the end is almost in sight. Plus I'm posting blog posts two days in a row, so I'm really on the ball!  I'm also ahead of schedule to finish this book by Thanksgiving.
The vocabulary word of the day is "drowsed" (Pepys spells it "droused") which means pretty much the same as "dozed."  Maybe everyone else knew that this was a word, but I didn't.  I was familiar with drowsy, but I didn't know there was a verb form.
Today I have two quotes which both relate to loves of mine: books and tea.  In the first, Pepys writes:
"So I away to the Temple, to my new bookseller's; and there I did agree for Rycaut's late History of the Turkish Policy which costs me 55s.; whereas it was sold plain before the late fire for 8s. and bound and colored as this is for 20s.; for I have bought it finely bound and truly colored, all the figures, of which there was but six books done so, whereof the King and Duke of York, and Duke of Monmouth, and Lord Arlington, had four.  The fifth was sold, and I have bought the sixth."
The second quotes reads,
"I went away and by coach home, and there find my wife making of tea, a drink which Mr. Pelling, the Potticary, tells her is good for her cold and defluxions." 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 79% Complete

It's only Sunday and I'm already almost to 80% so I shouldn't have any trouble getting to that by Monday night.  Yay for long weekends! I'm even starting to think about which book I want to read next.  You can weigh in on that debate on the project's Facebook page.
The vocabulary word for today isn't really a new word, but rather a variation on a regularly used word which I liked.  The word is "sparrowgrass" which is apparently an archaic variation on "asparagus."  I vote we all start calling it sparrowgrass because I think that sounds nicer.
Today's quotes tell an interesting story.  At this time, Pepys' mother has been sick for some time and is suffering from what seems to me to be some sort of dementia which has resulted in dramatic personality shifts.  On the day in question here, a Monday, he receives word that she is getting worse.  He writes:
"So home after supper and to bed, and much troubled in my sleep of my being crying by my mother's bedside, laying my head over hers and crying, she almost dead and dying, and so waked, but what is strange, methought she had hair over her face, and not the same kind of face as my mother really hath, but yet did not consider that, but did weep over her as my mother, whose soul God have mercy of."
Pepys mentions several times over the next couple of days that he fears that his mother has died and that that is why he had the dream, and then on Wednesday he writes:
"So I home, and there up to my wife in our chamber, and there received from my brother the newes of my mother's dying on Monday, about five or six o'clock in the afternoon, and that the last time she spoke of her children was on Friday last, and her last words were, 'God bless my poor Sam!'"

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 71% Complete

As you can see, I haven't gotten much reading done lately.  But it's a long weekend now, so I'm hoping to get up to 80% by Tuesday.  We'll see how that goes.  I want to give big shout out to all our military veterans out there on this Veteran's Day weekend here in the States.  We appreciate all you have done and all you have sacrificed.
Today instead of a vocabulary word, I have a phrase or sort of proverb for you that I rather liked.  The phrase is, as Pepys writes it, "I am afraid my cake will be doe [dough] still."  My edition of the diary has some editor's notes, which are very helpful, and they explain this to mean that one's hopes are lost, because if you put a cake into the oven and it's still dough when you take it out, it is considered ruined.  The note references another usage of this phrase from Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew in which he says, "My cake is dough, but I'll in among the rest. Out of hope of all, but my share in the feast."
I have two quotes for today, both of which relate to Pepys' usage of early scientific instruments.  First he writes,
"Creed and I took coach and to Reeves, the perspective glass maker, and there did indeed see very excellent microscopes, which did discover a louse or mite or sand most perfectly and largely."
Later on he says,
"We did also at night see Jupiter and his girdle and satellites, very fine, with my twelve-foote glasse but could not Saturne, he being very dark.  Spong and I had also several fine discourses upon the globes this afternoon, particularly why the fixed stars do not rise and set at the same houre all yeare long, which he could not demonstrate, nor I neither, the reason of."
These passages were surprising to me, as Pepys was not a scientist, but rather simply a Renaissance man: interested in all aspects of knowledge, and this was very early on (the first passage was from 1663 and the second from 1666) in the usage of either a microscope or a telescope, as I believe his "twelve-foot glass" was. (He also later purchased a microscope of his own).
According to Wikipedia, the first microscopes were probably created in the 1590's and the name "microscope" was coined in 1625, a mere thirty-eight years before Pepys would use it.  The first telescopes were being built in 1608 and 1609 with Newton creating the first reflecting telescope in 1668. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 70% Complete

Wow, I'm actually getting closer to the end of this behemoth! On a more "housekeeping" type note, you will notice that just to the right is a button that says "We're on the Fence!"  I'd really appreciate it, if you enjoy the blog, if you click on it to vote for me! There's no signing up or anything required, just click the link and you're done!  Thanks in advance!
Today, drum roll please, the word of the day and the quote actually go together! I know! The word is "druggerman" which is an archaic alternate of the word "dragoman" which means an interpreter in a country where Arabic, Turkish or Persian is spoken.
In today's story, Pepys is spending time with his friend Erwin, who has just returned from Siam (now Thailand) and is telling stories of his time abroad, specifically about the King of Siam.  Pepys writes:
"He told me what I remember he hath once done heretofore: that every body is to lie flat down at the coming by of the King, and nobody to look upon him upon pain of death.  And that he and his fellows, being strangers, were invited to see the sport of taking of a wild elephant, and they did only kneel, and look toward the King. Their druggerman did desire them to fall down, for otherwise he should suffer for their contempt of the King.  The sport being ended, a messenger comes from the King, which the druggerman thought had been to have taken away his life; but it was to enquire how the strangers liked the sport. The druggerman answered that they did cry it up to be the best that every they saw, and that they never heard of any Prince so great in every thing as this King.  The messenger being gone back, Erwin and his company asked their druggerman what he had said, which he told them. 'But why,' say they, 'would you say that without our leave, it being not true?' -- 'It is no matter for that,' says he, 'I must have said it, or have been hanged, for our King do not live by meat, nor drink, but by having great lyes told him.'"
Did anyone else have flashbacks to Anna and the King of Siam?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 66% Complete

We're now into the second month of the project and I'm still ahead of schedule.  I've gotten a lot of reading done so far this weekend so I'm up to 66% of the way done and on track to finish this book by Thanksgiving.
The vocabulary word of the day is "obsequious" which means "obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree." (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).  The dictionary also has an interesting comparison of this word to similar words such as subservient, servile and slavish.  The proper usage of this word is, apparently, in a situation where the inferiority may or may not be genuine but is used in an attempt to placate a superior.
Today I have two quotes for you, both stories Pepys told that I found humorous, mostly because I can totally picture the same thing happening today.  In the first story, Pepys is traveling in a coach late at night and has drifted off to sleep.  He writes:
"...The coach stood of a sudden and the coachman came down and the horses stirring, he cried, Hold! which waked me, and the coach[man] standing at the boote to [do] something or other and crying, Hold! I did wake of a sudden and not knowing who he was, nor thinking of the coachman between sleeping and waking I did take up the heart to take him be the shoulder, thinking verily he had been a thief.  But when I waked I found my cowardly heart to discover a fear within me and that I should never have done it if I had been awake."
Haven't we all had times when we have been startled awake suddenly and not known what was going on?
In the second story Pepys accidentally leaves his lobsters in a coach he has hired. He writes:

"Thence with mighty content homeward, and in my way at the Stockes did buy a couple of lobsters, and so home to dinner, where I find my wife and father had dined, and were going out to Hales's to sit there, so Balty and I alone to dinner, and in the middle of my grace, praying for a blessing upon (these his good creatures), my mind fell upon my lobsters: upon which I cried, Odd zooks! and Balty looked upon me like a man at a losse what I meant, thinking at first that I meant only that I had said the grace after meat instead of that before meat.  But then I cried, what is become of my lobsters? Whereupon he run out of doors to overtake the coach, but could not, so came back again, and mightily merry at dinner to thinke of my surprize."
I think I'm going to start saying "Odd zooks!" when I'm surprised!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 58% Complete

Happy November, everyone, and a special shoutout to all you NaNoWriMoers! I would join you, but one crazy venture per month is enough for me!
I buckled down this week and got quite a bit of reading done, considering I have midterms this week.  I've discovered that, for me, breaking a large goal up into mini-goals helps a lot, so my next mini-goal is to finish this book by Thanksgiving, which, for all you international readers, is November 22nd this year in the US.
The word of the day is "quorum" which is "the minimum number of members of an assembly or society that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid." (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary)  It seems I keep ending up with a lot of words related to parliamentary proceedings, but as Pepys is involved in government and I am not familiar with a lot of the terminology surrounding this, that is inevitable, I suppose.
The quote for the day is one that made me laugh because I am completely familiar with the phenomenon of which he speaks here.  In this passage Pepys has just bought a new watch from the watchmaker and he writes:
"So home and late at my office.  But, Lord! to see how much of my old folly and childishnesse hangs upon me still that I cannot forbear carrying my watch in my hand in the coach all this afternoon and seeing what o'clock it is one hundred times; and am apt to think with myself, how could I be so long without one; though I remember since, I had one, and found it a trouble, and resolved to carry one no more about me while I lived."