Friday, January 15, 2016

Pepys Exhibition and a Bit of Poetry

Samuel Pepys

You may recall, last summer I introduced my friend, the famous 17th century English diarist, Samuel Pepys. Well, there is currently a Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, just down the river from London. Oh, how I wish I could go to this!  Since I cannot, a bit of armchair travel is in order. If you are the slightest bit interested in 17th century English history, culture (think the movie "Restoration" starring Robert Downey, Jr.), or are just curious, check out the exhibition link. There you will find information about the exhibit, a link to expert Pepys blogs, and a YouTube introduction to the exhibit. The YouTube video is quite clever; I keep playing it over and over just because I am one of Samuel's most devoted fans!

He was a sexist pig by our standards, but I am over judging historical figures by our standards. It is an exercise in 21st century political correctness and ego. Things happened. They were bad things, and some people were awful racists, philanderers, etc., and that cannot be changed, just acknowledged. And we move on, hopefully having learned how NOT to behave. At least we should. The soap box just collapsed, so I am off it now.

Anyway, I have been reading Pepys Diary, kind of like the tortoise, plodding along, making progress, and enjoying it immensely. Still in 1668, the next to last year of the Diary.  My next Pepys read will be to finish this Claire Tomalin autobiography, Samuel Pepys, The Unequalled Self:

As you can see by the book's "well-loved" condition, I have been working on this one for several years. The snippet of one of my favorite Billy Collins poems mentions Pepys. Here is the text:

"...This is what Samuel Pepys did too,
        jotting down in
private ciphers minor events that
        would have otherwise
slipped into the heavy, amnesiac
        waters of the Thames.
His vigilance paid off finally
        when London caught fire..."

                    --Billy Collins, Tuesday June 4th 1991

Lots of reading to do before I get to 1666, the year of the Great Fire of London. 2016 is the 250th anniversary of the fire. Thanks to Pepys we know so much more about how events unfolded over the course of several days. His home and office came very close to being destroyed. The fire stopped only one street away.

In the Tomalin bio, I am just now reading about the role Pepys played in the logistics of the restoration of Charles II to the English throne in 1660. It would have been better to read the bio before the Diary, but of course I did not! Pepys was a low-level civil servant for the English Navy thanks to his cousin by marriage, Edward Montagu, later created the Earl of Sandwich by Charles II. Montagu was instrumental in the politics of getting Charles out of Holland to England when the Royalists regained power from the Cromwellians. Pepys was responsible for procuring the Royal Barge used to transport Charles back to England and accompanied Montagu as his secretary on the trip.

These experiences are just two of many in the remarkable life of Samuel Pepys. I hope you will find yourself just a little bit curious about this momentous time in English history and check out the exhibit links. If you do, maybe you will want to learn more about Samuel.

Next time, I will tell you a bit about my personal pilgrimage to the old City of London to see where Pepys lived and worked. Also, a bit about the journey by river boat down the Thames to Greenwich. There is a Royal Observatory and a pub involved.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Rare Opportunity, The Huntington, and Reading Updates

The Bard

We are fortunate to live near a university town. World class art, drama, music, book shops, restaurants, and more are just a 30 minute drive from home. And now, we  have a very rare opportunity to view a Shakespeare "First Folio" at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art located on the campus of the University of Oregon. The exhibit is ongoing through February 7, 2016.

If you live nearby, please do visit. If you do not, here is an article from our local newspaper about the exhibit and a link to the museum.


Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

One of the great art and rare book collections in the world is in San Marino, California -- The Huntington.

Library and Grounds at the Huntington

I think I have seen a Shakespeare "First Folio" once before. I say "I think" because it was ages ago during a visit to the Huntington Library. I for sure remember seeing a Gutenberg Bible and Audubon's The Birds of America and have a niggling memory of strolling past the Shakespeare. Let's say I was a bit less aware of what was really important back in the day. Here is another link to the Huntington. Scroll down to see information about the major works on permanent display at the library. There is also an Art Museum and a lovely Botanical Garden at the Huntington. If you are ever in the L.A. area, schedule a visit to this wonderful place.

2016 Reading Update:

Finished reading:
Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart

Currently reading:
Pepys' Diary - 1668
The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather from my 2016 Reading Challenge
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (also from the 2016 Reading Challenge)
The Fairy Tale Girl by Susan Branch (more about this book when I am finished)

Audio Books Update:

During my recuperation I have spent many hours listening to audio books (mostly cosy mysteries and romances set in England because I find them very relaxing) while knitting, crocheting, doing Sudoku puzzles, etc. Here are the books I have listened to in 2016:

The School at Thrush Green by Miss Read
Celebrations at Thrush Green also by Miss Read

Current listening:
That Summer by Lauren Willig

I should say that I plan to read more than 16 books in 2016. The Reading Challenge is focused on books I have had in my TBR stack for way too long. I hope to read or listen to at least 40+ books in 2016. I need to get with it or I will never finish all the books I have in the time I have left on this good earth!!!

My cousin just published his first novel, and it is coming in today's mail!!! Add another one to my TBR stack! See you next time...