I did virtually nothing yesterday, except eat chicken and chocolate, wash the dishes and watch the Doctor Who Christmas special on BBC TV. I missed the Queen’s Speech in the afternoon. Things were so different 350 years ago. This is what Samuel Pepys did on Christmas Day 1662. It was a Thursday:
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Up pretty early, leaving my wife not well in bed, and with my boy walked, it being a most brave cold and dry frosty morning, and had a pleasant walk to White Hall, where I intended to have received the Communion with the family, but I came a little too late.
So I walked up into the house and spent my time looking over pictures, particularly the ships in King Henry the VIIIth’s Voyage to Bullen; marking the great difference between their build then and now.
By and by down to the chappell again where Bishopp Morley preached upon the song of the Angels, “Glory to God on high, on earth peace, and good will towards men.”
Methought he made but a poor sermon, but long, and reprehending the mistaken jollity of the Court for the true joy that shall and ought to be on these days, he particularized concerning their excess in plays and gaming, saying that he whose office it is to keep the gamesters in order and within bounds, serves but for a second rather in a duell, meaning the groom-porter. Upon which it was worth observing how far they are come from taking the reprehensions of a bishopp seriously, that they all laugh in the chappell when he reflected on their ill actions and courses.
He did much press us to joy in these publique days of joy, and to hospitality. But one that stood by whispered in my ear that the Bishopp himself do not spend one groat to the poor himself.
The sermon done, a good anthem followed, with vialls, and then the King came down to receive the Sacrament.
But I staid not, but calling my boy from my Lord’s lodgings, and giving Sarah some good advice, by my Lord’s order, to be sober and look after the house, I walked home again with great pleasure, and there dined by my wife’s bed-side with great content, having a mess of brave plum-porridge and a roasted pullet for dinner, and I sent for a mince-pie abroad, my wife not being well to make any herself yet.
After dinner sat talking a good while with her, her being become less, and then to see Sir W. Pen a little, and so to my office, practising arithmetique alone and making an end of last night’s book with great content till eleven at night, and so home to supper and to bed.
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James Boswell‘s diary was equally interesting in 1762. These are his entries 250 years ago:
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Saturday 25 December
The night before I did not rest well. I was really violently in love with Louisa. I thought she did not care for me. I thought that if I did not gain her affections, I would appear despicable to myself. This day I was in a better frame, being Christmas day, which has always inspired me with most agreeable feelings. I went to St. Paul’s Church and in that magnificent temple fervently adored the GOD of goodness and mercy, and heard a sermon by the Bishop of Oxford on the publishing of glad tidings of great joy.
Sunday 26 December
I went to Whitehall Chapel and heard service. I took a whim to go through all the churches and chapels in London, taking one each Sunday.
At one I went to Louisa’s. I told her my passion in the warmest terms. I told her that my happiness absolutely depended upon her. She said it was running the greatest risk. “Then,” said I, “Madam, you will show the greatest generosity to a most sincere lover.” She said that we should take time to consider of it, and that then we could better determine how to act.
We agreed that the time should be a week, and that if I remained of the same opinion, she would then make me blessed. There is no telling how easy it made my mind to be convinced that she did not despise me, but on the contrary had a tender heart and wished to make me easy and happy.
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Both Samuel Pepys & his wife and James Boswell & Louisa are long dead.
So it goes.