I’ve been thinking about the process of blogging and its predecessors, which took me back to one of my favourite books of all time, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, by a lady-in-waiting to the Japanese empress in the last decade of the 10th century AD. It’s a journal, a commonplace book, a collection of poetry and in some ways a conduct book. Sei was, no doubt typically of her time, a terrible snob, but delightfully free from repressive morality.
Her conduct advice still seems pretty good:
“A good lover will behave as elegantly at dawn as at any other time. He drags himself out of bed, with a look of dismay on his face. The lady urges him on: ‘Come, my friend, it’s getting light. You don’t want anyone to find you here.’ He gives a deep sigh, as if to say that the night has not been nearly long enough and that it is agony to leave. Once up, he does not instantly pull on his trousers. Instead he comes close to the lady and whispers whatever was left unsaid during the night. Even when he is dressed, he still lingers, vaguely pretending to be fastening his sash.
Presently he raises the lattice, and the two lovers stand together by the side door while he tells her how he dreads the coming day, which will keep them apart; then he slips away. The lady watches him go, and this moment of parting will remain among her most charming memories.
Indeed, one’s attachment to a man depends largely on the elegance of his leave-taking. When he jumps out of bed, scurries about the room, tightly fastens his trouser-sash, rolls up the sleeves of his Court cloak, over-robe or hunting costume, stuffs his belongings into the breast of his robe and then briskly secures the outer sash – one really begins to hate him.”
(Trans. I Morris, Penguin, London, 1967, p. 49-50