January 31, 2003

· Books

I’ve been reading Samuel Pepys’ diary most nights before bed since late last Summer, when I picked up the first volume of the superb Latham & Matthews edition in a bookstore in Bellingham, WA. So naturally I was immensely irritated when Pepys got his own blog and became the flavor of the month.

Well, I wasn’t really that irritated, I suppose. I’m nearly done with 1663, wherein Pepys manages to suffer from irrational jealousy of his wife’s dancing teacher, Pembleton, endures a quite spectacular 10-day attack of flatulence, and cheats on his wife a few times, fits of jealousy against her imagined suitors notwithstanding. He also hears, on October 19th, of the death of an acquaintance, and it makes an uncharacteristically sobering impression on him:

Sir W: Compton, who it is true had been a little sickly for a week or fortnight, but was very well upon Friday at night last at the Tanger Committee with us, [is] dead—- died yesterday—- at which I was most exceedingly surprized; he being, and so all the world saying that he was, one of the worthyest men and best officers of State now in England; and so in my conscience he was—- of the best temper, valour, abilities of mind, Integrity, birth, fine person, and diligence of any one man he hath left behind him in the three kingdoms; and yet not forty year old, or if so, that is all. I find the sober men of the Court troubled for him; and yet not so as to hinder or lessen their mirth, talking, laughing, and eating, drinking and doing everything else, just as if there was no such thing—- which is as good an Instance for me hereafter to judge of Death, both as to the unavoydablenesse, suddenness, and little effect of it upon the spirits of others, let a man be ever so high or rich or good; but that all die alike, no more matter being made of the death of one then another; and that even to die well, the prise of it is not considerable in the world, compared to the many in the world that know not nor make anything of it. Nay, perhaps to them (unless to one the like this poor gentleman, which is one of a thousand there, nobody speaking ill of him) that will speak ill of a man.

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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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