Introduced by David Hughes
Illustrated by Ian Stephens
An idyllic existence brought to life in the famously charming diary of Parson Woodforde.
Parson Woodforde belongs beside Samuel Pepys as one of the great English diarists. He began his diary in 1759, when he was accepted as a scholar of New College, Oxford, and from 1761 he wrote almost every day until a few months before his death at the age of 63 (the final words of his diary were ‘Roast beef &c’). He left behind 68 little books in which are contained the most complete and delightful picture we have of 18th-century rural life. As Virginia Woolf said of his diary, it is ‘neither writing nor reading, but almost indistinguishable from living’.
In this handsome edition, wood engravings by Ian Stephens bring to life the pastoral beauties and modest amusements of Parson Woodforde’s quiet life: fishing trips, near-daily card games, concerts and dinners (large ones, famously and minutely documented) with friends. Occasionally the pleasant tenor of his days is ruffled by the impudence of a servant or friend (‘Mrs Davie and Nancy made me up an Apple Pye Bed’) or the louche behaviour of his younger brother (‘Brother John is very indifferent by his being too busy with Girls’). There are excitements — the launching of a hot-air balloon, the day the pigs got drunk – but essentially his life was a peaceful one and sometimes, as he puts it, ‘comical dull’. His diary is anything but. As the novelist David Hughes states in his introduction, ‘No amount of history written with hindsight can be anything like as good as a document never meant to be read.’
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