Tag Archives: Samuel Pepys

Pepys Day 7!

31 Dec

Christmas PuddingI’m celebrating the end of Week 35 with the tastiest looking picture of a Christmas pudding I’ve ever seen. Samuel Pepys would approve, I’m sure. As for the work of the day, I shouldn’t be surprised that 350 years ago on December 31, Samuel Pepys used his diary to assess his situation and that of his country as a new year dawned. It was a time of political unrest in England, and that got me thinking about the two words “resolution”—that word we obsess over whenever January 1 comes calling—and “revolution,” and how I might connect them. That was the germ for the day’s shorty, which is playful and not about much of anything. What a remarkable week! Many thanks to old Sam, to Phil Gyford, who runs the site where I read the diary entries, and to all the lovely people who have been leaving annotations on the entries. Even when I was exhausted, which is the whole week, I got such a kick out of thinking, ahh, Sam wrote his diary entry exactly 350 years ago today, and here I am, making a story inspired by what he wrote. It’s like I’ve been carrying around a bit of Pepys’s writer-DNA. Very satisfying.

Working Title: New Year Revolution
1st Sentence: At some point, probably in college, when she’d shattered the high school self so carefully constructed, emerged from the scraps of that shell like a fresh-skinned superhero on a righteous mission, Melanie decided that the birth of a new year called not for the formulating of resolutions, but for the fomenting of revolutions.
Favorite Sentence: Into her forties, now, the mother of middle-schoolers, the wife of a moody, detached, golf-loving dentist who keeps disappearing her Victoria’s Secret catalogs for purposes unconfessed, she is anxious as ever for more wins to tuck under her tightly cinched belt.
Word Length: 1,000

Photo by Man vyi 12/2006.

Pepys Day 6!

30 Dec

Samuel Pepys PlaqueThe liveliest of the diary entries yet! Pepys recorded a fat handful of juicy details on December 30, 1662, but the one I and my lowly mind entertained the most was a tidbit handed over during a heavy-drinking lunch by a couple of officers in the Dutch East India Company, who told Pepys about a method for increasing a man’s fertility used by the native peoples of the Cape of Good Hope. I had to read the annotations to discover what exactly this method entailed, because the editor of the edition used for this site had excised the details—too faint of heart. I don’t blame him. The method? “[W]hen they come to age, the men do cut off one of the stones of each other, which they hold doth help them to get children the better and to grow fat” (see 3rd annotation). I wasn’t likely to forget that but what stands out to me more than the mental images of gore and my horror at the pain these poor men endured is the realization by these people, so long ago, that a MAN could have something to do with fertility—an insight that escaped Westerners for quite some time. In any case, talk of “stones”—again, I wince for those men—was particularly good inspiration, apparently, because I’m very pleased with the day’s shorty.

Working Title: Good Girl
1st Sentence: He’d read somewhere, in one of those ridiculous pamphlets he picked up at that back-to-earth, commune outfit in the next county, no doubt, that walnuts enhance fertility.
Favorite Sentence: Should you want to spark a baby with a man who has left behind entirely the funny, sexy guy you married, to become this fretful, forehead-creased accountant of passing days, the keeper of the calendar logging everything that happens between your legs, the man-splainer who intones the word “menses,” when instructing you about your own goddamn cycle, who has forgotten entirely about your breasts but could write an epic poem about your ovaries?
Word Length: 628

Photo by Man vyi 12/2008. Inscription by “The Corporation of the City of London”: In a house on this site, Samuel Pepys, diarist, was born. 1632-1703.

Pepys Day 5!

29 Dec

Samuel Pepys Portrait BookplateOn December 29, 1662, as Samuel Pepys was making his usual rounds about town, he heard about “the burning of Mr. De Laun, a merchant’s house in Loathbury, and his lady … and her whole family; not one thing, dog nor cat, escaping; nor any of the neighbours almost hearing of it till the house was quite down and burnt.” He found the story to be “a most strange thing” and so do I. How could a massive fire go unnoticed for so long? That’s the detail that inspired the day’s shorty. Too bad the shorty itself isn’t worth noticing. Make friends, dear shorty, because you will not be leaving my hard drive.

Working Title: Keeping Time
1st Sentence: I was the first to notice.
Favorite Sentence: “Maybe they weren’t home,” whispered my Marnie.
Word Length: 688

Photo of engraving by Robert White, after a portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Engraving (with Pepys’s motto beneath) served as the frontispiece to Pepys’s ‘Naval Memoirs” (1690). Courtesy of the British Museum, London.

Pepys Day 4!

28 Dec

Samuel Pepys BustOn this day 350 years ago, Samuel Pepys and his wife snubbed Lady Batten at church by leaving before her. According to the rules of etiquette, they should have allowed the higher-ranked woman to exit first. Ha! Very British hijinks likely ensued. He says only, “…which I believe will vex her.” That was the detail that tickled my brain all day as I tried to come up with a short story. Eventually, in desperation, I just started typing variations of the word “snub” over and over, which got me thinking about someone refusing to speak to a friend, which then made me think of a silent pet parrot.

Working Title: Hey, Sweetie
1st Sentence: My parrot will no longer speak to me.
Favorite Sentence: So if I give him more jelly beans, I’m disobeying the doctor, I’m knowingly imperiling my parrot’s sensitive birdie system.
Word Length: 1,030

Photo by John Salmon (12/2008) of a bust of Samuel Pepys outside Seething Lane, London EC3, the location of one of his homes. From the collection at geograph.org.uk.

Pepys Day 3!

27 Dec

Pepys Diary PageOn December 27, 1662, Samuel Pepys mentioned in his diary that he’d spent time that day in uninteresting company. The star of the day’s shorty is having a rough week that culminates in a nasty break of temper at a party he really wishes he wasn’t attending.

Working Title: Done
1st Sentence: It happened the first time at work, while he was on an important conference call with a client last week.
Favorite Sentence: All these shiny, over-tanned people with too-ready smiles and unnaturally bright hair put him on edge.
Word Length: 634

Photo of a page in H.B. Wheatley, ed, The Diary of Samuel Pepys: Pepysiana (London, 1899).

Pepys Day 2!

26 Dec

Samuel Pepys Diary350 years ago today, Samuel Pepys noted in his diary that he saw the play “The Villaine.” After several false starts, his trip to the theatre inspired today’s shorty.

Working Title: Fame
1st Sentence: About midway through the second act, and with no warning, Bettina began to shed her clothes.
Favorite Sentence: These were his words getting lost in the curve of an inner thigh, his metaphors slipping down a cool shoulder and disappearing into the sssshhhh of falling cotton.
Word Length: 858

Photo of a book cover by Alfred Garth Jones for a 1902 edition of the published diary.

Prompts from Pepys!

25 Dec

Samuel Pepys PortraitIf I’m ever feeling full of myself for writing a story every day for so many months, I need only remind myself of Samuel Pepys to prevent ego-bloat. The man wrote a diary entry every single day for 10 years, from January 1, 1660, until the end of 1669. Now THAT is a commitment! I’ve been alternating story-prompt weeks with non-story-prompt weeks, and it’s time for prompts again. In brainstorming possible prompts, I thought of old Sam’s diary, which I’d always heard was pretty lively. Turns out, a man named Phil Gyford has been publishing the diary entries every day since January 1, 2003, at this wonderful site (so as it happens, they’ll finish out the tenth year this December 31). Oh, how I love the interwebs! I decided to read the entry from December 25, 1662, as my inspiration for the day’s shorty, just because I like round numbers. On Christmas day in 1662, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary that he had enjoyed “a mess of brave plum-porridge,” a detail that inspired a short story 350 years later. I wrote this one in the form of a recipe.

Working Title: Christmas Pudding
1st Sentence: 10 to 12 long, heavy sighs.
Favorite Sentence: 1 argument that involves more than two family members, lasts at least twenty-four minutes, and starts with a disagreement about whether garland is prettier than icicles OR whether colored lights are prettier than white lights, and ends with a reference to a sin committed by one of the arguers at least ten years ago.
Word Length: 241

Photo of 1666 Samuel Pepys portrait by John Hayls (1600–1679).