Goodbye Mr. Pepys
After faithfully writing almost nightly for nine years, noted diarist Samuel Pepys will end his blogging today. Bloggers come and go, but Pepys is unique in that he died in England more than 300 years ago.
Pepys was a hard-working clerk to the Naval Board who eventually was elected to Parliament and became chief secretary to the Admiralty under two British kings. Starting at age 26, he began keeping a diary.
Pepys was an engaging diarist, taking great joy in describing the good meals he ate, business conundrums, tussles and tangles with his wife, and his extramarital sexual encounters.
He also lived through and chronicled some enormous historic events up close: The Great Plague of London (1664-1666) and the three-day long Great Fire of London in 1666.
It was for those eyewitness accounts that Pepys' diary was first published, in two volumes, in 1825. The sexual escapades were left out of this and later editions until the 20th century. In America, that was in a nine-volume edition that was published by U.C. Press from 1970-1983.
The realization that 17th diary entries were in fact a perfect match for blogging as a form struck Phil Gyford, a British Web designer and developer. He set up PepysDiary.com, where Pepys' diary entries publish every day, coinciding with the days Pepys wrote them. They go online at 11 p.m. London time, an approximation of when Pepys might have been writing at the end of the day, or when a modern-day Pepys would sit down to blog. Pepys concluded many of his entries: "...and so to bed."
Gyford added notes and created a system whereby readers -- some of whom surfaced with deep expertise in Pepys and his period -- were able to annotate freely. It has been an entertaining and marvelously ingenious time warp -- but it's almost over.
After nine years, Pepys' diaries ended, and his online blog version will see its final entry published today. In honor of the occasion, the entry will go up a couple of hours early; it will post while many Americans are still at work.
For those who will miss Samuel Pepys, or those who are ready to first discover him, Gyford has made sure his online voice continues. He's surfaced -- where else? -- on Twitter.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Image: 1666 portrait of Samuel Pepys by John Hayls.