Sick as a dog

Toying with death

Samuel Pepys’ diary — the original blog

Back in the 1660’s, Samuel Pepys’ single-handedly invented the idea of the diary as a literary form. He figured his own life was sufficiently interesting to be written about, so he started keeping a journal that he later published as The Diary of Samuel Pepys. This one simple act probably did about as much to create the modern sense of the individual as Freud, Rousseau, and Adam Smith — and it traced a path towards today’s recently-ascendent trend of the memoir.

And, of course, the blog! On Jan. 1, U.K. technologist Phil Gyford launched a version of Pepys’ diary as a blog, done using Movable Type. A sample entry:

This morning (we living lately in the garret,) I rose, put on my suit with great skirts, having not lately worn any other, clothes but them. Went to Mr. Gunning’s chapel at Exeter House, where he made a very good sermon upon these words:—”That in the fulness of time God sent his Son, made of a woman,” &c.; showing, that, by “made under the law,” is meant his circumcision, which is solemnized this day. Dined at home in the garret, where my wife dressed the remains of a turkey, and in the doing of it she burned her hand. I staid at home all the afternoon, looking over my accounts; then went with my wife to my father’s, and in going observed the great posts which the City have set up at the Conduit in Fleet-street. Supt at my, father’s, where in came Mrs. The. Turner and Madam Morrice, and supt with us. After that my wife and I went home with them, and so to our own home.

Okay, so, yeah, it’s not always terribly gripping material. But it’s striking just how blog-like Pepys’ diary still seems. Filled with constant name-checking of the various London VIPs he ran into, it was, in essence, a Gutenberg version of the concept of blogrolling.

(Thanks to Boing Boing for finding this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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