January 14

New Year's Resolutions: An Elegy

We are fourteen days into 1678, and, as of yesterday morning, I have irrevocably broken all five of my New Year's resolutions. Nonetheless, though I am a man who looks to the future, I recognize the importance of burying my dead—so I shall take a brief moment to commemorate the short, sad lives of my good intentions for this year before I move on with my own life. Here, then, are my five resolutions for 1678 (in no particular order), and the tragic tales of their demise:

1. Give up drinking.
Born: First of January, 1678 at 9 o'clock a.m., amidst overwhelming nausea and a splitting headache.
Died: First of January, 1678 at five minutes past 9 o'clock a.m., following the discovery of a half finished bottle of ale by my bedside.

2. Be more tolerant of Sean.
Born: Thirty-first of December, 1677 at half past 11 o'clock p.m. (after the pair of us had more or less cleaned out my wine cellar) and immediately forgotten until three days later when Sean boasted of it in front of guests at a luncheon, claiming that he might eat my slice of plum pudding without fear of recrimination.
Died: Third of January 1678 at 1 o'clock p.m., during a luncheon in which Sean received a slice of plum pudding—traveling at high velocity—upon his new linen shirt.

3. Allow Patrick to finish his sentences before interrupting (or leaving the premises).
Born: First of January, 1678 at 10 o'clock a.m., when Patrick asked me to listen to his latest groundbreaking discovery about auto-regenerative healing capabilities within the phylum Nematoda.
Died: First of January, 1678 at 10 o'clock a.m., when Patrick continued speaking on this subject.

4. Read more academic literature.
Born: First of January, 1678 at five past 10 o'clock a.m., when Patrick accused me of being "an ill-informed, uneducated dunce who wouldn't know a brilliant idea from a swift smack across your pompous face."
Died: Eighth of January, 1678 at 7 o'clock p.m., after a brief encounter with Isaac Newton's Method of Fluxions, which Patrick had lent me and which, I must admit, is almost exactly as entertaining as a sharp blow to the head.

5. Attend church services on Sundays with my mother-in-law.
Born: Thirty-first of December, 1677 at 3 o'clock p.m., when Sean reminded me that, however much I may dislike the woman, I am all that she has in this world (which could translate into a sizeable inheritance for me if I play my cards right). I actually made good on this resolution last Sunday—accompanying her to three services and inviting her home to dine with me that evening.
Died: Thirteenth of January, 1678 at 5 o'clock a.m., when, struck by a recollection of the torments I had endured the previous Sunday, I sent my manservant George over to the woman's home to inform her that I had left the country forever in order to teach the Gospel to savages in the Far East.

December 31

The Ins and Outs of a New Year

The Year of Grace 1678 is almost upon us, and, in keeping with a tradition I began last year, I would like to present to my readers a list of those ideas which have fallen out of fashion this year and those which I believe will gain prominence in the New Year. Patrick has already amused me and Sean greatly with his “Ten Momentous Things, Changes, and Events of 1677,” and I hope that you will find my own list a pleasant diversion as you prepare for the New Year:

Out: Ice Cream. Despite its recent popularization by the French (it is rumored to be a favorite pudding of Madame de Montespan herself and was all the rage in Paris this year), it is my firm conviction that this ludicrous concoction—along with the croissant, the café au lait, and those unpleasant strands of potatoes fried in oil that the French have also introduced into contemporary cuisine—will fall out of favour permanently before this decade is over.

In: Syllabub. Unlike its silly, faddish counterpart, syllabub is a pudding that is quite clearly here to stay. If you want my prediction, this sumptuous dessert will be enjoyed throughout the world for centuries after “ice cream” has faded forever from gastronomical memory.


Out: Witchcraft. Following a number of poisonings in France recently, the French king was faced with the difficult problem of what to do with the abundance of suspects and their acquaintances who had been rounded up in connection with the case (under accusation of practicing witchcraft). There are those who maintain that his handling of the situation could have been more compassionate, but it is my opinion that he solved the problem the only way a king ought: with a felicitous use of judiciousness, common sense, and kindling.

In: Burnings. I will say one thing for the French, they do not make such a fuss about “due process” as one tends to encounter this side of the Channel. Louis XIV, for all his extravagance and frippery, is a man who knows when to exercise diplomacy and patience and when to rid himself of his problems simply by burning them. Having used the same method myself on a number of occasions, I can highly recommend it to any of my readers who are longing to “make a fresh start” in 1678.


Out: Patrick. My friend Patrick Thrasher is a world-renowned scholar, a respected and beloved member of the community, and a generous patron of the arts. He is also a tiresome bloody bore. When Patrick disappeared last year, I learned exactly what life was like without his learned influence, his unique sense of humor, his kind and thoughtful ministrations—but unfortunately, he has somehow found his way back into my life, and that blissful period is now but a distant memory. I have resolved this year to be less tolerant of my persistent houseguest.

In: EJT. When comparing the Thrasher brothers, it must be admitted in Patrick’s defense that Edward (or EJT as he likes to be called) is a villain, a murderer, and a dangerous fanatic. We all have our flaws, though, and Edward more than makes up for his with an aptitude and enthusiasm for golf, which (given the current scarcity of gentlemen willing to give this fascinating new sport a try) is a rare and commendable quality indeed.


Out: Spinoza. Spinoza died in February of 1677 in The Hague, and with him died one of the silliest, most preposterous books ever written: On the Improvement of the Understanding, which might more accurately be called On the Stultification of the Senses. Although the banning of his collected works has deprived me of an effective soporific, this necessary censorship—along with Spinoza's timely demise—has spared countless future students of philosophy the unpleasantness of encountering his absurd ideas. I would wager my fortune that mine is the very last generation that will ever have any occasion to read the works of Baruch Spinoza.

In: Spermatozoa. Despite producing an occasional bad apple like Spinoza, the Dutch are for the most part a useful people, and Patrick has insisted that I include a mention in this year’s list of Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek and his recent discovery of “Spermatozoa,” which he calls the “seed of life”. It has been known for generations that the process of getting this substance to fertilize an egg and thus produce life is an exceedingly difficult and unpleasant procedure, but Van Leeuwenhoek’s new theories about how it all works must certainly be accounted as interesting (biologically speaking), though they do not appear to be of much practical use in actually getting the job done.


Out: Whores. Regular readers of Peep This Diary will know that Sean and I have recently purchased a disreputable den of prostitution called The Crimson Unicorn and cleansed it of the sinful trollops who were once seen plying their trade in its infamous environs. They will also doubtless be pleased to hear that after being in our hands for little more than a month, The Unicorn may be crossed off the list of places where a common Englishman may find base comforts in the arms of a cheap whore. Which reminds me, actually—I need to remember to inform Messrs. Routledge & Sons, who publish the list, that this is the case.

In: Ladies of the Night. Although, in all honesty, they offer very similar services, The Crimson Unicorn’s well-mannered and carefully groomed Ladies of the Night appeal to a more respectable clientele than the low harlots who occupied the building before Sean and I took over its operation, and they have raised the tone of the establishment considerably. As a result, we charge double.*

*Sean has asked me to inform our readership that regular customers are still allowed to play at “Naughty Nurses” twice weekly for half price.

Ten Momentous Things, Changes, and Events of 1677

The good year of our Lord 1677 has come to its end, and not without adventures of all sorts. My ill-fated trip to the Orient being foremost among them, I have spent some time since my return catching up on all the news since my departure. NTL, given the popularity of last year's list, I have once again compiled the Ten Most Important Occurrences of 1677, as a partial record of this eventful year. I welcome comments on the strength of these ten as the years Most Important, or on any Omissions readers may have determined in my list.

10) Death of Francis Glisson (below): An old and beloved colleague, he passed away not long after my return to London. A renowned Doctor of Physick, his study of the liver has advanced medicine immeasurably, and has saved many of us the trouble of investigating the most boring of organs.

Francis_glisson_2

9) Marriage of Mary to her coz William of Orange: So much preferable to that cad, the Dauphin Louis.

8) The New Management at the Crimson Unicorn: Though I am loathe to list the same establishment on two "best of" lists in a row, Jack and Sean's active involvement in the management of the best baudy house in all of London surely merits it. I have not yet determined whether this is an event of great joy or woe; but, given their harsh efforts to cut costs, and their extreme dislike of credit - even mine, and even though previous management supplied them such credit quite generously - I am leaning towards the latter. But the new sconces are nice.

7) The removal of Thomas Killigrew from the the post of Master of the Revels: Nearly as incompetent as he is unfunny, I was mightily pleased to find upon my return that he had lost his post. I am certain that ninny Pepys is disappointed; I know he found Killigrew amusing. Need I mention that Killigrew is a Papist?

6) Jean Racine's Phèdre: I have only read it - the text was given to me by a colleague before I departed for points east; I read it a dozen times on the outbound journey alone - and I have heard that the opening performances were not well received, but this play is a masterpiece. For Racine's sake, I hope History reveals this to be true.

5) Henry Purcell named to the court of Charles II: I have very high hopes for this young composer. His compositions and performances as organist at Westminster have certainly earned him the posting.

4) The death of Wenceslaus Hollar, etcher:  A great loss for all involved in Natural Philosophy. None in the City had his gift for representation, nor his production speed. His illustrative work has enabled many, many great minds to study flora & fauna seen in person by only a lucky few. Examples:

Hollar_elephant

Hollar_griffin

I had hoped to enlist Hollar in illustrating my own texts on my discoveries in the Orient.

3) Elias Ashmole's gift of the Tradescant Collection to Oxford University: An unprecedented scholastic opportunity, and we all look forward to the new Facilities built to house the Collection. Of course, the bequest is something of a blow to Viscount Brouncker, who had been trying to secure the collection for the Royal Society for the better part of the decade.

2) Completion of the Monument to the Great Fire of London: Wren does it again (with some help from Robert Hooke). Not only is the monument a fitting tribute to that catastrophe, but it affords a grand view of the City from its pinnacle...and it is a spectacular scientific instrument as well! It functions both as a large zenith telescope AND a laboratory for conducting gravity experiments. My only complaint: the illustrative carvings and inscription around its base fail to mention the cause of the Fire - a Papist conspiracy. Someone should fix this.

1) Discovery of Youthful Medicine in the Orient: I alluded to a "Font of Youth" in a much earlier post, and, while I hesitate to use quite such exuberant language this time around, I NTL believe something there, most likely the water, is responsible for the youthful aspect of even the oldest of men in that far away Delta. Should we be able to determine the exact cause of their longevity, we shall be able to export it back to the West, radically improving the Englishman's quality of life and earning a fortune in the process. History, I think, will show this to be far and away the Most Important Occurrence of the year - perhaps even the decade.

January 3

New Year's Resolutions

It has been many a week since I have last written. After many assault upon my person I have grown loathe to venture out into the wide world of London. However, a New Year brings with it new hope that I will survive it without further physical or mental wounds. Jack has hired a new maid who has done much to balm my fevered brow. Furthermore, New Year’s itself was quite delightful as Patrick presented his momentous occurrences of the past year. Both pressured me into creating my own list, but I demurred as it is not part of my character to demonstrate such showmanship. Instead, I have come up with several resolutions for the New Year which I hope that all may follow in the hopes of preserving both health and wealth.

Resolution 1 – Take up Smoking

This is a new activity that has taken London by storm. All young gentleman of worth have taken to smoking the weed from the Colonies and it is my hope that I too will be lighting my pipe with this most fragrant form of diversion.

Resolution 2 – Avoid Strenuous Activity

A gentleman never exerts himself and I have had enough physical activity to last me ten years.

Resolution 3 – Eat More Meat

As my diet consists of mainly black bread and the vegetables from Jack’s garden I desperately need to incorporate more meat into my diet. I have already started the New Year right by helping myself to a third serving of bacon at Jack’s table.

Resolution 4 – More Trips to the Crimson Unicorn

If only to see the look upon Patrick’s face which is much akin to a child opening his Christmas cracker.

Resolution 5 – Beat Samuel Pepys about the head and shoulders

I have heard mention that Pepys has made several pointed remarks about our activities. I have never met the man, but Jack assures me that he is of the most repulsive character as he frequently discusses his bowel movements. Such talk is clearly unchristian and I am resolute in having a private discussion with Pepys about what is proper and what is not.

My best to all is this New Year and many thanks for both your time and attention. I hope this greeting finds you in both good health and free of the juju.

December 31

Ten Momentous Things, Changes, and Events of 1676

A recent long night of revelry and remembrance gave Jack, Sean, and myself cause to consider the many events history will most likely remember fondly from this past twelve months.  Excited by the conversation, I took a few moments to put together a list of those things that I found most worthwhile from the year and, encouraged by Jack's rare enthusiasm for it upon my recitation, I decided to post it for all to read.  Thus:

10) Anton van Leeuwenhoek's Paper on Organisms Discovered through Microscopic Observation.  The notion that organisms wriggle around below the scale of our sight is preposterous; nevertheless, any work that stokes the Society into such confusion has done some good in the world.

9) Tea. Our city still loves coffee, but tea has gained standing among Learned Londoners. I promote its consumption in place of coffee whenever possible, as it does not excite the yellow bile nearly so forcefully as coffee.  For those already choleric -- Jack is a prime example -- this substitution will likely add a decade to their life. 

8) Thomas Betterton's as Dorimant in The Man of Mode.  Simply hysterical. Just observe his quizzical-innocent visage:

And, quoth he:

"Why, first, I could never keep a secret in my life, and then there is no charm so infallibly makes me fall in love with a woman as my knowing a friend loves her. I deal honestly with you."

Fathers, well would you do to keep your daughters close by your side!



7) Bacon's Rebellion. I usually take up arms alongside those who take matters into their own hands, especially when they do so against those damned Toads of Tidewater.  Poor Nathaniel Bacon's rule of Virginia was a great, inspired pleasure, if short and ignomiously ended.

6) Wren complete's the Royal Greenwich Observatory:

Tserver_1

The Observatory's contributions to astronomy (not to mention architecture) cannot be underestimated.  I eagerly await its findings.

5) The Close of the Tenth Year since the Great Fire.  London has since acquitted itself well in its reconstruction, though a more rigorous program to expel Catholics would be preferred. 

4) The Ruffle ReturnsI had always insisted that the cravat was a mere passing fancy, and that a proper, respectable collar with full ruffles, of the sort you see me wearing to such great effect atop this post, would again be the Fashion of Choice for respectable men; this despite Jack's views to the contrary.   Near oblivion just a few years ago, in 1676 the collar has made such inroads against that ridiculous napkin calling itself a "cravat" that I forsee the latter being madeCompleat1 extinct by the end of the decade.

3) The Compleat Angler, Fifth Edition.  No book has brought me more pleasure on an idle afternoon than Izaak Walton's literary stroll through his favorite pass-time; when reading it I almost wish to spend time outdoors.  I worried that any further revision would destroy the book's charm, but this edition's seven new chapters are the rare successful instance of making still better something that needed no fixing in the first place.

2) The Crimson Unicorn.  For the first time since returning to London, a new Public House has surpassed the Griffin in my esteem. I base my assessment on the superior quality of their port; the exceedingly pleasant form of their whores, and their smart tongues; and the House's willingness to extend Jack credit beyond all reasonable limits. Special recognition is due here to Sean, who first took us to the place, and to Odyllia, who introduced me to all of its aforementioned virtues.

1) Peep This Diary, and you. Thank you, gentle reader, for giving me good cause to post each and every week.  I look forward to the same, and more, in the coming of the Good Year 1677.

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December 30

Happy New Year!

Patrick read out his “Top Ten Momentous Events of 1676” to Sean and me this evening, and I enjoyed it very much. He really can be an amusing fellow when he desires it. In answer to Patrick’s list, and in anticipation of the Year of Grace 1677, I have taken the liberty of composing a list of my own, which enumerates those ideas which have fallen out of fashion this year and those which I believe will gain prominence in the New Year. Quite a novel idea, I think, and one that I am very pleased with indeed:

Out: Nathaniel Bacon. Dysentery, poor chap.

In: Francis Bacon. I had always been content frying up a rasher or two with a liberal dose of butter, but Patrick tells me that the alchemists are all abuzz with talk of a new “Baconian method,” so I will cede to his judgment in this matter.


Out: Pope Clement X. Like all popes, this one spoke a nasty foreign language and lived an unnaturally long time. Good riddance to him.

In: Pope Innocent XI. Cut off a head and another one grows in its place. New face, same silly hat.


Out: Catholic Terrorists. Attempting to blow up Parliament, burn down an entire city, and take control of the monarchy is all in a decade’s work for a dedicated papist, but some of us are beginning to tire of the whole business.

In: Terrorizing Catholics. It will start, no doubt, with just being occasionally cruel to them, but I’m hoping for public hangings by the end of 1677.


Out: Monogamy. A man who still holds it valuable to remain faithful to his wife may get himself to sleep at night by counting up the king’s mistresses, from Nell Gwynne to Lucy Walter. The rest of us have other ways to occupy ourselves at night.

In: Nell Gwynne. If she’s good enough for the king, she’s good enough for any man in England. That seems to be her philosophy anyway.


Out: George Etherege. Man of Mode was doubtless the comic highlight of the year, but I sense that the nation is growing weary with the Comedy of Manners. Indeed, with the way the Whigs are carrying on in Parliament, it seems that some of us are ready to abandon manners altogether.

In: Aphra Behn. The notion of a woman writing plays is as humorous as anything even George Etherege could come up with. I expect we have not seen the last of this monstrosity.


Out: Pepys' Diary. For a daily dose of toadying and affectation with a sprinkling of privy humour, Samuel Pepys is your man. But for a modern reader with more refined tastes …

In: Peep This Diary. The blogosphere just isn’t big enough for the both of us.