Little Bits of History

Pepys’s Diary

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 31, 2011

Samuel Pepys

May 31, 1669: Samuel Pepys makes his last diary entry. Pepys was born February 23, 1633. He was a naval Administrator as well as a Member of Parliament. What he is most famous for, however, is his diary. He began writing in his diaries on January 1, 1660. He was a meticulous record keeper and included both public events and his private thoughts. Momentous occasions as well as trivial items were included. His commentaries were all inclusive with national events juxtaposed next to what women he was pursuing.

Some of the more important events included in his diary were the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Great Plague, and the Great Fire of London. His recordings gave first hand voice to horrid events as well as to the political intrigues of the day. He also included entries on his public life. Pepys was quite efficient on the Navy Board, more than could be said for some of his superiors. This proved fodder for many critical entries into his diary. Like many of us today, he would be scheduled to meet with a prospective customer only to arrive at a meeting place such as a coffee house, and find he had been stood up. These frustrating events also were duly entered.

His personal life was also recorded. We know he liked wine and plays and enjoyed convivial company. He was somewhat obsessed with accumulating wealth and made comparisons against others he knew, trying to assess his ranking in this endeavor. His marriage was less than he hoped and he recorded for posterity, a number of extramarital liaisons with a number of women. While writing the intimate details, he would use a variety of languages.

The diary was written in a form of shorthand and was written purely for his personal use. However, he did make efforts to save the written work, going so far as to make better copies from notes. He had loose pages of writing bound into six volumes. He kept copious notes for nearly a decade, but opted on this date to quit writing. He cited his failing eyesight as the reason for this. He began having to dictate all writing for others to take down and could no longer afford the luxury of keeping his private thoughts in his diary, since they would no longer be private. The diaries were not published until 1825 when a two volume set was released. A second transcription was put forth in 1875 with revisions seeing print again in 1899 and 1926.

“Blessed be God, at the end of the last year I was in very good health, without any sense of my old pain but upon taking of cold. I lived in Axe yard, having my wife and servant Jane, and no more in family than us three. My wife, after the absence of her terms for seven weeks, gave me hopes of her being with child, but on the last day of the year she hath them again.” (first entry in the diary)

“But, Lord! how sad a sight it is to see the streets empty of people, and very few upon the ‘Change. Jealous of every door that one sees shut up, lest it should be the plague; and about us two shops in three, if not more, generally shut up.” (August 16, 1665, during the great plague)

“I down to the water-side, and there got a boat and through bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire.” (September 2, 1666, the Great Fire of London)

From October 25, 1668, writing about his wife “coming up suddenly, did find me imbracing the girl con my hand sub su coats; and endeed I was with my main in her cunny. I was at a wonderful loss upon it and the girl also….” – all from Samuel Pepys

Also on this day:
Ready to Eat – In 1884 Kellogg patents corn flakes.
Johnstown Flood – In 1889, the South Fork Dam burst.

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