Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Another day spent on the motet. I started at 8am and haven’t yet stopped. This is mostly because things have been going a lot better today. It’s still incredibly hard work - mind-numbingly difficult - but I no longer feel like I’m treading water... or tap dancing with blue tack on the soles of my shoes!

I’ve been working on a passage from the time of the plague. It’s a rather beautiful sequence; an account of a dream, and for inexplicable reasons it moves me to tears. There’s something innocent, almost childish about it. It reveals how terrified Pepys was of dying, even though, by this point, death must have seemed inevitable. In that week close to 7,000 Londoners died of the plague. The illness was ripping the city apart.

Lady Castelmayne, who features as the heroine of the dream is the woman whose picture hangs proudly opposite Pepys’ at the National Portrait gallery, despite the fact that in life, she barely knew he existed. As Charles II’s lover, she had bigger fish to fry. But Pepys’ had a major crush on her, and probably because he knew he didn't stand a chance, constantly felt the need to remind himself that she was a “whore”! This didn't prevent him from purchasing at least one portrait of her during the period of the diary:

August 15th 1665: “My last night’s dream... the best that ever was dreamed... I had my Lady Castlemayne in my armes and was admitted to use all the dalliance I desired with her... What a happy thing it would be, if when we are in our graves (as Shakespeere resembles it), we could dream, and dream but such dreams as this – that then we should not need to be so fearful of death”

Pepys then went on to write that even within the dream, he knew the situation was too good to be true. This apparently makes it one of the first written references to a "lucid dream". For more information about lucid dreams click here

On this date in 1660, Pepys set out for Cambridge to help his brother settle in, and no doubt spend some time buttering up Montagu at his Huntingdon country pile. Pepys left London with his friend, the surgeon James Pearce, by horseback at about 7 in the morning. They started their journey in the dark and it was dreadful weather, which made their trip up the old north road quite unpleasant.

They stopped at Ware and then at Puckeridge just west of Bishop’s Stortford, where they fed the horses, had a loin of fried mutton and were “very merry”. They ploughed on and about 6 miles short of Cambridge, the horses gave up the ghost. They stopped at a town called Foulmer, which I assume is the village now called Fowlmere. They played cards and ate roast veal at the Chequers Inn before hitting the sack. They shared a room, and possibly even a bed. Gayers!

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