A selection of his famous diary that show us how life real was in the XVII Century. In this book, the passages are collected together by subject.
Pepys was not trying, of course, to share his experiences of daily life with us, and sometimes his diaries are a little annoying, but what there are to discover about every day is fascinating. Some data are interesting, other surprising, and thanks to him; I know now more about the great fire (1666), the last outbreak of the pest in England (1665), or what people usually did with their spare time.
Some of these interesting data:
“…books were normally sold unbound and were later given leather covers of the purchaser’s choice. (Cloth covers did not come in until the 1820s.)”
“… we find a shepherd and his little boy reading, far from any houses or sight of people, the Bible to him”. The general idea that I had about people in the XVII Century is that most of them were illiterate, but of course if a shepherd was reading to his son, that idea is quite wrong.
“Pepys was fond of oysters which, were a popular food rather than a luxury.”
“St Valentine’s Day. A common convention was that both men a women chose as their Valentine the first persona they saw on St Valentine’s day.” “… the femela Valentines claimed expensive presents.” It is good to know that presents for Valentine’s Day is not a El Corte Inglés or John Lewis invention.
“Pepys never records being accosted by beggars….. Does he take them for granted like the smells.”
Besides these, there are a lot of more interesting data, and this is only a small part of his Diaries.
Samuel Pepys was born on 23 February 1633 near Fleet Street in London, the son of a tailor. He was educated at St Paul’s School in London and Cambridge University. After graduating, Pepys was employed as secretary to Edward Montagu, a distant relative who was a councillor of state during the Cromwellian protectorate and later served Charles II. In 1655, Pepys married 15-year-old Elizabeth Marchant de Saint-Michel, daughter of a Huguenot exile. In 1658, he underwent a dangerous operation for the removal of a bladder stone. Every year on the anniversary of the operation, he celebrated his recovery.
Pepys began his diary on 1 January 1660. It is written in a form of shorthand, with names in longhand. It ranges from private remarks, including revelations of infidelity – to detailed observations of events in 17th century England – such as the plague of 1665, the Great Fire of London and Charles II’s coronation – and some of the key figures of the era, including Sir Christopher Wren and Sir Isaac Newton. Fear of losing his eyesight prompted Pepys to stop writing the diary in 1669. He never actually went blind.
In June 1660, Pepys was appointed clerk of the acts to the navy board, a key post in one of the most important of all government departments, the royal dockyards. In 1673, he became secretary to the Admiralty and in the same year a member of parliament for a Norfolk constituency, later representing Harwich. He was responsible for some important naval reforms which helped lay the foundations for a professional naval service. He was also a member of the Royal Society, serving as its president from 1684-1686.
In 1679, Pepys was forced to resign from the Admiralty and was imprisoned on a charge of selling naval secrets to the French, but the charge was subsequently dropped. In 1685, Charles II died and was succeeded by his brother who became James II, who Pepys served as loyally as he had Charles. After the overthrow of James in 1688, Pepys’s career effectively came to an end. He was again arrested in 1690, under suspicion of Jacobite sympathies, but was released.
Pepys died in Clapham on the outskirts of London on 26 May 1703.