FIGHTING THE SIN OF SLOTH

Manuscript diary.

[England], 22 September 1805 – 28 January 1806.

Manuscript on paper, 8vo, pp. [81]; written in a neat hand in brown ink; very well preserved in original leather covers.

£200

Approximately:
US $268€221

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An extraordinary and psychologically intriguing diary of an English lady preoccupied with the proper use of her time, comprising in effect an account book of time spent on her daily activities, down to the quarter hour, including prayer, reading the scriptures, dressing, breakfast and dinner, instructing her children, conversation, meditation, gardening, divine service, and visiting schools and the sick. Beginning with a plea to God ‘to spend my time as becomes a Christian’, the author is highly self-critical: castigating herself as ‘so inclined to sleep’ for getting up at five past six, and for unedifying conversation with friends. ‘How apt am I to trifle with time’, she writes, ‘not considering its great value to squander it away in sloth & indolence’. The activities she considers time well spent include a ‘religious meeting with three serious friends’, reading the Bible with her son and daughter, and a chat with the Rev. Tomlinson of Cambridge.

Although we do not know the author’s name, she must have married into the military: there are references to attending military parades, to worrying about the ‘colours of the reg[imen]t’, to Captains Dodd and Cummings, to attending generals, and to receiving the Russian ambassador (‘what a waste of time’). She also refers to the Battle of Trafalgar, spending an ‘anxious night for the safety of our fleet’ and then ‘rejoicing for the victory’.

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