Useful (published) diaries

May 3, 2009 at 11:41 am (books) (, , , , , , , )

Just a quick word to say that I *finally* broke down and purchased the first volume of both The Complete Diary of a Cotswold Lady (by Agnes Witts) and the diary of her son The Complete Diary of a Cotswold Parson (Francis Edward Witts).

They are really lovely books! Large (especially Francis’ — at just over 700 pages!), with many illustrations. Wish I could afford the entire set (still in the act of being published, by the way) — but my pocket book is exceptionally empty these days, and these were extravagances – though, purchased used, they were more affordable. (Agnes vol 1 sells for £25; Francis vol 1 for £50.)

cotswoldlady1The first thing that struck me was how Agnes is described on the inside dust jacket flap: “Agnes Witts was a remarkable woman with great zest for life. She required constant amusement and bored easily. Her favourite pastimes were cards and stimulating conversation, her social circle was wide and well-connected…

Imagine my surprise, upon beginning to read the actual diary entries (ie, after the introduction on Agnes and her family) to see they were quite COMPARABLE to those written by Mary Smith, Emma Smith/Austen, and Eliza Smith/Chute!! More a surprise, because I never would have dreamed that their diaries would hold anyone’s attention for long, if simply published verbatim.

Then sank in this idea: if Agnes was  in need of “constant amusement” and “bored easily”, what does that say of Eliza Chute — who’s diaries (especially) carry the same type of information, especially as regards card playing and visiting?? But the further into the introductions to both volumes I read (the intro to Francis Witt’s diary runs to 200 pages!), the more I see a subtle creeping in of the EDITOR’s thoughts and feelings about these people in these introductions… Maybe I will change my mind, after taking in more of the actual diaries. We shall see.

cotswoldparson1One thing I do wish is, that Alan Sutton (the editor and publisher) had employed a good proof-reader! I’ve never seen such blatant (and easily caught — so why weren’t they caught before going to press?) mistakes: misspellings, additional punctuation (like two periods at the end of a sentence), and sentences that, with slight differentiations, relate exactly the same information. Then, just this morning, I read TWO paragraphs (one followed the other) that were EXACTLY the same, word for word. The word for this is sloppy.

But the ideas and history contained within the diaries continue to fascinate me – which is a good thing, considering the cost just to get these books sent from England! I hope to read the two rather in tandem: Mrs Witts covers the period 1788-1793 and Francis Witts covers 1795-1805.

Permalink Leave a Comment