January 11, 2011

Twaddle! – Historic marginalia in the Diary of Samuel Pepys


Inspired by MobyLives‘s recent maginalia context, MJ Porter (the translator of Melville House‘s forthcoming Havana Real, the diary of Cuban activist and blogger Yoani Sánchez) wrote in to tell us about the historic marginalia contained in her most valuable and rare book.

The book in question is Lord Braybrooke‘s 19th-century edition of Samuel Pepy’s Diary, the 17th-century daily diary that describes many notable historic events, such as The Great Plague of London:

24th. To London, and there, in my way, at my old oyeter shop in Gracious Streete, brought two barrels of my fine woman of the shop, who is alive after all the plague, which now is the first observation or inquiry we make at London concerning everybody we know.

Pepys, a member of Parliament, also frequently praised King Charles II. At one point Pepy’s mentions an encounter with Charles II (“Found the King in the Park. There walked. Gallantly great.”) and later describes the king’s account of his escape from “The Battle of Worcester” where he was defeated and forced into exile by Oliver Cromwell:

Upon the Quarter-deck he fell in discourse of his escape from Worcester. Where it made me ready to weep to hear the stories that he told of his difficulties that he had passed through. As his traveling four days and three nights on foot, every step up to the knees in dirt, with nothing but a green coat and a pair of country breeches on and a pair of country shoes, that made him so sore all over his feet that he could scarce stir.

Apparently the book’s first owner, a Robert Rising “of Horsey” (most likely the 19th-century lord of the Norfolk village Horsey-next-the-Sea) had no love for Charles II and Pepys’s adoration of the monarchy, which resulted in his contemptuous margin commentary:

"My eye"