HAPPY BIRTHDAY – Samuel Pepys, born 23 February 1633
“Music and women I cannot but give way to, whatever my business is.”I don’t think any author is as intimately known to us as is Samuel Pepys. For almost 10 years he kept a diary, written in shorthand code so that others could not easily read what he wrote, and in its pages he examines himself, confesses his faults and weaknesses and his bad behaviour with women, lists the food he eats, records some of the great events of his era such as the Restoration of King Charles II, the Plague and the Fire of London, and he brings his reader so closely and wonderfully into his life in 17thC London. The Diary is a superb gift to any historian, but it is also brilliantly written. Pepys could capture so well all he saw around him, and his prose is vivid, accessible and a sheer delight.
He was born in London, the son of a poor tailor and an illiterate washerwoman. He rose to become a President of the Royal Society, Master of Magdalene College, Chief Secretary of the Admiralty, Member of Parliament, and a Justice of the Peace. But above all, he was the founder of the administration for the English Navy. One biographer has suggested that without Pepys, England would have lost WWII, because the navy that he established kept England safe from Germany throughout that time. Pepys was the first great Civil Servant, an incredible man whose organisational skills and method totally changed a chaotic service into a disciplined and ordered one.
However, it’s for his Diary that we love Pepys. Those frank pages, the pen portraits of those he meets, his fascinating relationship with his “poor dear wife” Elizabeth, and his fantastic enthusiasm and zest for life which is there on every page.
Samuel Pepys died on 26 May 1703, aged 70.
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Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self by Claire Tomalin
The Plot Against Pepys by James Long and Ben Long
The Diary of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys
The Shorter Pepys by Samuel Pepys, Robert Latham (edited by)
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