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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 5 Jan 2011, 11:45

On how Pepys kept his diary

(From the author's diary 2/1/1993

With comments in relation to blogging in OU land.

Pepys composed his diary in five stages:

First, the accumulation of bills, minutes, official papers, news books and rough notes on a day's proceedings.

Second, the gathering of these into a form which combined accounts with diary style notes.

Third, the entering of the account and business matters into the appropriate manuscript/books, and the first revision of the general entries which were intended for the final manuscript.

Fourth, entry of these notes into the diary-book (with care and over time), adapted to the space.

Fifth, reading over the entries that had been made shortly before, making small corrections and stylistic improvements and inserting some further details at the ends of paragraphs and entries.'

From W. Matthews, 'Introduction to Pepys Diaries II, ppcii

How many steps do you take when writing your blog entry? One or none? That an workm but it can also be a flop. Are you saying what you meant? Should you be saying it at all? Who are you writing it for in any case? If it's meant for your Tutor do they pop by? Never. If it's meant for your Tutor group should they comment? I wish they would, just a note 'yep, been here' would do for me sometimes.


William Matthews goes on to say what makes a good diary and what makes a bad one.

'Almost all diaries that give genuine and protracted pleasure to an ordinary reader do so because the diarists possessed, instinctively or by training, some of the verbal, intellectual and emotional talents that characterise the novelist. Diaries are not novels; they are bound to reality, with its deplorable habit of providing excellent story situations and so artistically satisfactory ends.'

(What amuses me is the mixture of French, Spanish and Latin Pepys uses to hide what he was getting up to with various girls; not something the modern diariast would do, the detail of any encounter always producing the most hits. But diarist as novelist? Perhaps. Below you'll find an Oxford tutor making the case for journalism in essay writing style.)

But also the man, Pepys, because of his variety of amateur interests had a passion for life which sustains a diary which requires a rich weave of activity if it is to remain interesting.

'Pepys was a typical 17th century virtuoso, a man who justified himself by the diversity of his interests.'

W.M. Pepys VI, 'Diary as literature, ppCx
ii

'His literary instinct led Pepys to relate a story excitingly whenever the materials gave him the chance ... diaries bring a reader closer to human actuality than any other form of writing. As life-records they present a natural disorder and emphasis which is artfully rearranged in biography, and so somewhat corrupted. As self-delineations they deal directly with people and events which in the novel are subjected to the stresses and conventions of art and design. And in many ways they are the most natural and instinctive product of the art of writing.' (W.M. Pepys Vol 1, ppCXii)

REFERENCE

Matthews, W et al (2000) Pepys' Diary (Highbridge Classics) (2000) Robert Latham, Samuel Pepys, Michael Maloney (edit contributors)

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