24 December 2008

a very Pepys-y holiday

December 25, 1661. In the morning to church, where at the door of our pew I was fain to stay, because that the sexton had not opened the door. A good sermon of Mr. Mills. Dined at home all alone, and taking occasion from some fault in the meat to complain of my maid's sluttery, my wife and I fell out, and I up to my chamber in a discontent. After dinner my wife comes up to me and all friends again, and she and I to walk upon the leads, and there Sir W. Pen called us, and we went to his house and supped with him, but before supper Captain Cock came to us half drunk, and began to talk, but Sir W. Pen knowing his humour and that there was no end of his talking, drinks four great glasses of wine to him, one after another, healths to the king, and by that means made him drunk, and so he went away, and so we sat down to supper, and were merry, and so after supper home and to bed.
Family quarrels, half-hearted church-going by secular atheists and drunk people arguing politics -- 350 years may separate me and Sammy Pepys, but apparently some Christmas traditions live on at the Trettien household.

Actually Herr Eremita and I aren't celebrating today, in either a secular or religious way. Instead, he's plunking on his keyboard, and I'm finishing Claire Tomalin's biography of Pepys, which has been sitting on my shelf for awhile. I like Sammy, but I like his women more -- his lovably insane wife who wields hissyfits like a weapon; his maid Jane Birch who refuses to kill a turkey; and my favorite, the anonymous girl who, being groped by Sammy in a crowded church, fights back by sticking him with a pin. And he writes it in his Diary, with all his typical unabashed nonchalance:
I walked towards White Hall, but, being wearied, turned into St. Dunstan's Church, where I heard an able sermon of the minister of the place; and stood by a pretty, modest maid, whom I did labour to take by the hand and the body; but she would not, but got further and further from me; and, at last, I could perceive her to take pins out of her pocket to prick me if I should touch her again--which seeing I did forbear, and was glad I did spy her design. (Diary, August 18, 1667)
I bet he was. Although socially restricted to narrow sphere of influence, these women find ways to resist or, more wonderfully, to turn what restrains them into their own source of power. Although not one of the women mentioned above has left a single word of her own -- a fact that, in itself, serves as a lesson in the frames of history -- I'm drawn to their stories. They remind me to be careful about painting voiceless or anonymous women from the past as downtrodden victims when many of them, especially those I wouldn't particularly label as proto-feminists (even granting the anachronism of the term), seem to display an extraordinary amount of awareness and courage.

Thanks for the emails about the IE bugs on my thesis prototype; I've fixed them. I'm also testing out a way to add my linkroll to this page every day. We'll see if it works.

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