I like New Year’s resolutions that add something to your life without criticizing your old way of life. For example, say you resolve to read some classic literature. That does not mean you were wrong to read thrillers and best sellers and books about zombies. It just means you want to stretch yourself and try something new to you or meet again with long lost friends.
If you have a new Kindle; I hope to make finding and downloading free (or cheap!) classic books easier. It can be difficult because not all free books are properly converted for the Kindle and in those cases the text is hard to read or missing sections. Also, the free books may not appear first in the listing and may take some searching. I will review books which I have searched out that are readable.
Here is a book that you may wish to read a bit of each day, because it is diary entries and you can start by reading the January 1, 1659 entry on January 1, 2012. It is the Diary of Samuel Pepys.
One of my favorite authors is the diarist Samuel Pepys. For almost ten years he recorded his daily life in breathtaking honesty. His diary reveals his jealousies, insecurities, trivial concerns, and his sad mistreatment of his wife. This truthfulness is ultimately seductive. His philosophies and feelings are laid open in a way that I have seen nowhere else.
The openness of the diary is to me Pepys’s chief appeal. However it is also important as an account of London in the 1660’s. He records the restoration of the monarchy, war with the Dutch, fire, and plague. Pepys was well placed to view what was happening. He was always curious and often acted on that curiosity, as he acted upon almost all his impulses.
He spent a great deal of time evaluating his fortune and his place in the world. He even made New Year’s resolutions. For example, this entry on Dec. 31, 1661,
“I have newly taken a solemn oath about abstaining from plays and wine…”
The following months reveal his lapses to the reader as by Feb. 17
“And here I drank wine upon necessity, being ill for the want of it.”
Pepys’s job required that he meet with many people to dispense monies and make contracts. He often laments over how he “lost his labour” having gone to some appointment at a coffee house or tavern there to discover that the person he was seeking was not within. This was a constant frustration to Pepys. But in our day of instant communication, there is something appealing in setting out to a tavern in the hope that the person you are seeking will be there.
As you read the diary, the pattern of his life and certain recurring phrases imprint themselves on you. There is a pleasurable sense of the familiar as you begin to anticipate what he will say. Perhaps when you tuck yourself in, you will think “and so to bed,” that phrase which so often ends the day’s entry.
In this time when every difference is examined to show how men are unlike women, and New Yorkers are unlike Californians, and Americans are unlike the British, it gives this 21st century woman great pause to read Samuel Pepys’s diary. You cannot set it aside without thinking how very much alike we all must be.
(If you don’t wish to meander through Samuel Pepys life at the Admiralty, go directly to 2 September 1666 for an account of the Great Fire of London. The diary is also celebrated for its account of the 1665 plague, the Great Plague of London, which is the latter half of 1665. )
Here is a bit of Pepys
13th. Up early, the first day that I put on my black camlett coat with silver buttons. To Mr. Spong, whom I found in his night-gown writing of my patent. It being done, we carried it to Worcester House, [The Earls of Worcester had a large house between Durham Place and the Savoy, which Lord Clarendon rented at 5l. per annum, while his own was building.] to the Chancellor, where Mr. Kipps got me the Chancellor’s recepi to my bill; and so carried it to Mr. Beale for a dockett; but he was very angry, and unwilling to do it, because he said it was ill writ, (because I had got it writ by another hand, and not by him); but by much importunity I got Mr. Spong to go to his office and make an end of my patent; and in the mean time Mr. Beale to be preparing my dockett, which being done, I did give him two pieces, after which it was strange how civil and tractable he was to me.
Some things never change and a tip always helps.