Diary "Looking As Cheerful As Any Man Could Do In That Condition"

Witold Gombrowicz

"Looking As Cheerful As Any Man Could Do In That Condition"

Context: The Diary of Samuel Pepys covers a period from January 1, 1660 to May 31, 1669, when his eyes gave out. Written in a system of shorthand devised by Thomas Shelton, made public in 1641, it contains daily entries for the early period. In three years, working twelve hours a day, the Reverend John Smith deciphered it in 1819, and part was printed in 1825. In complete form, it appeared in 1893–1899. Whatever unity the Diary has is two-fold, the record of the rise by hard work and by the seizing of opportunities of a poor and obscure clerk to a position of wealth and power; and second, the domestic tension between a sensitive man who could not resist a pretty woman and his young and devoted wife incapable of sharing her husband's interests and ambitions. In his Diary, Pepys shows himself an observer of important as well as unimportant moments of history. In this entry he records the hanging of the man appointed by Cromwell to convey Charles I from Windsor Castle to Whitehall, and who also served as one of the judges who tried and sentenced the king to execution.

I went out to Charing Cross to see Major-General [Thomas] Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition. He was presently cut down, and his head and heart shown to the people, at which there was great shouts of joy. It is said, that he said he was sure to come shortly at the right hand of Christ to judge them that now had judged him; and that his wife do expect his coming again. Thus it was my chance to see the King beheaded at White Hall, and to see the first blood shed in revenge for the King at Charing Cross. After that I went by water home, where I was angry with my wife for her things lying about, and in my passion kicked the little fine basket, which I bought her in Holland, and broke it, which troubled me after I had done it.