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Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Puritan's journal comes to life
Diary (not Roger Morrice's)
Historical diaries shed a light on the past
The diary of a 17th Century puritan has been transcribed by experts after lying forgotten for three centuries.

Roger Morrice's Entring Book paints a very different picture of Restoration England than Samuel Pepys' diary.

The strait-laced work has been translated by a team of Cambridge University academics.

The diary covers the years 1677 to 1691 and will be published in 2005.

Cambridge history lecturer Dr Mark Goldie is leading the project and told BBC News Online why it was such an exciting discovery.

Hidden

"This is the most detailed account we have got of England in the 1680s, a very dark period of English history when there were political fears, show trials and widespread religious persecution," said Dr Goldie.

"It gives a very different account compared with Samuel Pepys' famous diary, which was written 20 years earlier in the 1660s," he added.

The child was a large full child in the head and the upper parts but not suitably proportioned in the lower parts
Roger Morrice
A proportion of the journal by the puritan minister turned political journalist was written in shorthand, in order to stop the work being infiltrated by royal agents.

Dr Frances Henderson, one of only a handful of experts in 17th Century shorthand, had to translate these sensitive sections of the diary.

Disgusted

"Most of the shorthand is reserved for the names of government informants, one of whom was a member of the Privy Council and had been an associate of Pepys," said Dr Goldie.

Morrice is critical of the moral state of the nation and staunchly anti-Catholic, although this was not unusual at the time, according to Dr Goldie.

"He was a passionate anti-Catholic but many people were then, there was a great fear of France during the late 17th century," he said.

Morrice described the then fashionable spa town of Tunbridge Wells as "the most debauched town in the kingdom."

One of Morrice's sources gave him information about the birth of James Stuart, the Catholic heir to James II and later the Old Pretender.

Forgotten

The minister was evidently not impressed at the prospect of another Catholic monarch.

"The child was a large full child in the head and the upper parts but not suitably proportioned in the lower parts," he wrote.

The Entring Book was acquired by Dr Williams' Library in London in the early 18th Century and lay unnoticed until experts realised its value 20 years ago.

Dr Goldie and his team began working on the project in the 1990s, after it was kick-started by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

When the diary is finally published, it will appear in six hardback volumes alongside a single volume paperback.




SEE ALSO:
Historic Pepys papers uncovered
10 Apr 03  |  Cambridgeshire


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