I've spent the last month reading the diary of Samuel Pepys, but as of today -- only one-third through the "Everyman" edition -- I'm calling it quits. No more Pepys for me!
I have an obsessive, completist nature; I can't stand reading only ONE book in a series, or owning only ONE album by a band. I need to indulge in media either wholly or not at all...if something is missing I feel like I'm losing the soul or sense of the thing.
It's very difficult to get a complete and unabridged set of Pepys' diaries...they tend to be sporadically released by small publishers, and even then you're not guaranteed a COMPLETE unabridgement. You see, Pepys wrote his diaries in a cryptic shorthand that has been translated variously by different people over the centuries...and, what's more, many of those translators wanted to protect the virgin minds of their Victorian-era readers.
I was aware that my "Everyman" edition was abridged, and I'd convinced myself that the editor had removed only the tedious Parliamentary details, but had retained all the stuff that would really communicate to me what Pepys' life and times were all about.
Sadly, after comparing it with the mostly-unabridged Pepys Blog (and the commentary which reveals the somehow-gleaned unexpurgated copy whenever necessary) I see that much of the human interest stuff HAS been removed, and anything racy was COMPLETELY edited out (in my edition, the footnotes keep saying things like "This passage is too vulgar for printing"). To hell with that! I want to know WHAT that drunken Lord was doing on the balcony, and I REALLY want to know what he was "washing" in his drink.
Now that I realize how little of the actual diary is contained in my two-volume edition I'm forced to put it aside. If I DO come across a complete version someday -- preferably one with useful footnotes -- I'll be happy to read it. But for now...no.
Regarding Pepys himself, I've tried to form an impression of the man, but it's difficult to do from this source material. I wonder how much the shorthand aspect ended up dictating his writing style. Also, while Pepys was very curious about all the events around him, he was somewhat lax about actually DESCRIBING them (at least in my edition). He says that events are "exceedingly exciting" or "most displeasing," and women are "the most beautiful" he has ever seen, but he never tells us WHY.
What's more there is no window into his own opinions, except for the most basic details. He will mention arguments he had with various people but he doesn't go into any of them in depth. You're left wondering who this staircase-building, monkey-beating, money-dispensing fellow REALLY WAS.
I liked the diaries and I was getting quite involved with the various intrigues -- the case brought against him in court, the King's philandering, his wife's dancing lessons -- but I never felt that I knew who Samuel Pepys WAS...and I can't bear wondering how much was cut from the text before I ever got to it.