Need the facts? Check Phyllis’s diary!

Need the facts? Check Phyllis's diary! by Bob Karolevitz Phyllis has kept a diary for some 40 years, but four centuries earlier � in the 1660s � Samuel Pepys started writing one which is still part of English literature more than 400 years later.

Unlike my wife�s, Sam�s diary was written for his eyes alone. He put down everything he saw, heard, felt or imagined � but it wasn�t for anybody else to see. Certainly not his servants or the general public!

He used a special kind of shorthand � called tachygraphy � but he also slipped in some foreign words and some hard-to-decipher expressions of his own. He wasn�t about to let other people know what he was thinking.

Shucks, Phyllis doesn�t even complicate her daily journal with an occasional Norwegian entry!

For 122 years after his death at 71 in 1703, Pepys� diary gathered dust at the university in Cambridge, England. Then it was decoded and at last partially published in 1825. Needless to say, he became universally famous long after he was buried.

Of course, he had the advantage of his lifetime with English royalty, his association with the navy, plus the garrison in Tangiers, and several brief stints in prison for a variety of reasons. Maybe that accounted for his secret writings which have been described as racy and garrulous.

From what I have seen, Phyllis�s log is anything but racy!

It has a purpose, though. If we want to know what we were doing on April 5, 1976, for instance, she can tell us. Her day-to-day chronicle has also settled a few bets, none of which has made her a red cent, incidentally.

On more than one occasion her diary has taken the wind out of the sails of someone �who knows for sure� what happened when. Believe me, those dozens of volumes have a lot of answers to questions which pop up now and then.

Getting back to Samuel Pepys, he was said to be diligent and hard-working. The son of a tailor who had inherited a small estate, he (the younger Pepys) managed to get both his bachelor�s and master�s degrees at Cambridge. However, when he went to work as a clerk for the navy, he apparently was so ignorant of business affairs and bookkeeping that he didn�t even know his multiplication tables.

By working early and late, though, he overcame his deficiencies and ultimately rose to the secretaryship of the admiralty � among other postitions � all of which became grist for his mill as a diarist.

Unfortunately Phyllis doesn�t have an admiralty to write about, and she was never in Tangiers that I know of, but she did have sheep which were worth a few thousand words over the years. I�ll bet Pepys never wrote about stomping wool or breeched births � but Phyllis did.

The Pepys family always pronounced their name as �Peeps,� and I think I�ll call Phyllis that from now on. After all, she�s a diarist, too, and she deserves some identification with the English writer.

�Peeps� sounds like a good nickname for her. Her words may never be published like Sam�s were. On the other hand, it�s doubtful that he ever heard: �Just to be sure, let�s look it up in Phyllis�s diary!�

� 2002 Robert F. Karolevitz

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