Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Translating the Naughty Bits in Pepy's Diary

I recently stumbled upon a site dedicated to translating the coded passages in Samuel Pepys Diary (here): that is, a site where all the naughtiest naughty bits are translated, the bits which Pepys recorded in shorthand or cypher, in a mix of Spanish, French, Italian and Latin, just to be sure to be sure that no-body else could read them.**

I was a typically filthy-minded and degenerate university student when (1) I studied Pepys, (2) discovered that he was a very naughty 17C book collector (three things very much in his favour in my mind), (3) discovered that all of the really naughty bits of Pepy’s diaries had been consistently omitted or bowdlerised by his translators/editors, and (4) that the new, definitive, scholarly Latham and Matthews edition [The Diary of Samuel Pepys, ed. R. Latham and W. Matthews, 11 vols. (London: Bell, 1970-83)], while recording the code, did not provide any explanatory notes.

The Latham and Matthews editorial principle is: “if you can read Spanish, French, Italian and Latin you are (1) probably a scholar and (2) probably a man, and therefore are intelligent, mature and seriously-minded enough to safely read the naughty bits without squealing in horror (like a girl) or falling onto the ground, glassy-eyed and drooling with excitement (like a boy or a prole)” or, perhaps, “if you can only read English you are either female/young/a prole and we really need to protect your moral purity” or, perhaps, “if you can read Spanish, French or Italian you are such a degenerate no further moral harm to you is possible.”

Since Latham and Matthews were so extraordinarily squeamish, or snobbish I guess (“scholarly editions are [apparently] not designed for the weak-minded, who cannot read Spanish, French, Italian and Latin”) a generation of scholars have had the frustration of nutting out passages such as the following:

To supper, and after supper to talk without end. Very late, I went away, it raining, but I had un design pour aller a la femme de Bagwell; and did so, mais ne savais obtener algun cosa de ella como jo quisiere sino tocar la.

According to Duncan Grey’s pages of “Coded Passages,” the end of this passage translates as: “I had a fancy to go and see Bagwell's wife; and did so, but did not manage to get quite what I wanted [from her], other than to touch her.”

Hooray for Duncan Grey and his colleague Prizzlesprung! (A typo for “Pizzlesprung”?)

Since numerous coded passages are not yet present or fully translated on these pages, I hope others will contribute to Grey’s honourable endeavour.

**"Not content with the protection of his cryptic shorthand when he confided his amours to his diary, Pepys added further screens by making up a pidgin language of French, Spanish and Latin, with toy words and a freakish kind of lustful baby talk" (“Pepys's Friend,” Time (3 October 1938): 59.)

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