Samuel Pepys - Life Stories, Books, and Links
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Picture of Samuel Pepys, diarist; seventeenth century British Literature / English Literature
Portrait: Samuel Pepys, by J. Hayls, 1666.
Samuel Pepys   (1633 - 1703)
Category:  English Literature
Born:  January 25, 1633
London, England
Died:  May 13, 1703
London, England
Related authors:
John Dryden
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Samuel Pepys - LIFE STORIES
5/31/1669     The Last of Pepys's Diary
On this day in 1669, Samuel Pepys regretfully made the final entry in his nine-and-a-half-year diary, citing his deteriorating eyes as cause. Begun when he was a struggling young civil servant, Pepys's diary covers the beginnings of his rise to wealth and influence in Restoration England. It is praised not just as a priceless historical document but for a range of character, anecdote and detail that is Dickensian in scope, and just as readable.
9/2/1666     "A Malicious Bloody Flame"
On this day in 1666, the Great Fire of London began, enkindled by the King's baker when he failed to damp his oven properly. The Diary of Samuel Pepys provides a fascinating eye-witness account, from his first horrified sighting of "an infinite great fire," to digging a pit for his best wine and cheese, to a final walkabout "with our feet ready to burn."
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Pepys' Diary
by Samuel Pepys, Kenneth Branagh (Reader)
audio cassette
The Diary of Samuel Pepys
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Samuel Pepys: A Life
by Stephen Coote
Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self
by Claire Tomalin
The Journal of Mrs. Pepys: Portrait of a Marriage
by Sara George
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Guardian Unlimited
Find biographical information about the author's life and influences, and a review of Claire Tomalin's biography, Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self (2002).

"The major dilemma for his biographer lies in the seductive candour of the Pepys we find in the diary, combined with the comparative lack of information about Pepys from other sources. Pepys's glorious set pieces -- the Great Fire of London, or the return of Charles II to England in 1660 -- can be corroborated and contrasted; his versions of events in his own life cannot be. Pepys, apart from the diary, is a shadowy figure, as relatively unknowable on either side of the nine-year period covered by the diaries as any other seventeenth-century official. As well, the iconic Pepys, synecdochal representative of all that is self-revelation, has been fashioned by a unique process. It was only in 1825, with the deciphering of his diary from shorthand, that Pepys the diarist was born."
Harvard Classics Essays: English and American
Presents an this excerpted chapter on Pepys, with analysis and commentary on the writer's life and times, and famous diary.

"Pepys was a young man for his age, came slowly to himself in the world, sowed his wild oats late, took late to industry, and preserved till nearly forty the headlong gusto of a boy. So, to come rightly at the spirit in which the Diary was written, we must recall a class of sentiments which with most of us are over and done before the age of twelve. In our tender years we still preserve a freshness of surprise at our prolonged existence; events make an impression out of all proportion to their consequence; we are unspeakably touched by our own past adventures; and look forward to our future personality with sentimental interest. It was something of this, I think, that clung to Pepys."
Samuel Pepys Diary
Find a short biography and the complete electronic text. Also features resources on the Great Fire of London, the Plague, Edward Montagu (the writer's employer), the Coronation of Charles II, and a contemporary recipe for "the cakes which might have started the Great Fire...." Includes a fellow diarist's remembrances written on the day of Pepys's death:

"1703, May 26th
This day died Mr. Sam Pepys, a very worthy, industrious, and curious person, none in England exceeding him in knowledge of the navy, in which he had passed thro' all the most considerable offices, Clerk of the Acts and Secretary of the Admiralty, all which he performed with great integrity. ... He was universally belov'd, hospitable, generous, learned in many things, skilfd in music, a very greate cherisher of learned men of whom he had the conversation . . . ."
-- John Evelyn
Samuel Pepys: the most famous diarist of them all
Magadalene College, the writer's alma mater, is the home of the Pepys Library, which is home to Pepys's original diaries and other works. A short article examines the stylistic forms and methods which make the diarist's observations compelling to this day.

"Pepys's skill lay in his close observation and total recall of detail. It is the small touches that achieve the effect. Another is the freshness and flexibility of the language. Pepys writes quickly in shorthand and for himself alone. The words, often piled on top of each other without much respect for formal grammar, exactly reflect the impressions of the moment. Yet the most important explanation is, perhaps, that throughout the diary Pepys writes mainly as an observer of people. It is this that makes him the most human and accessible of diarists, and that gives the diary its special quality as a historical record. Instead of writing a considered narrative, such as would be presented by the historian or biographer or autobiographer, Pepys shows us hundreds of scenes from life -- civil servants in committee, MP's in debate, concerts of music, friends on a river outing. Events are jumbled together, sermons with amorous assignations, domestic tiffs with national crises."
The Diary of Samuel Pepys
Find a biography and a daily excerpt from an 1893 edition of Pepys's diary. Also offers background information which provide added context and enriched understanding of the author's life and times.

"In spite of all the research which has brought to light so many incidents of interest in the life of Samuel Pepys, we cannot but feel how dry these facts are when placed by the side of the living details of the Diary. It is in its pages that the true man is displayed, and it has therefore not been thought necessary here to do more than set down in chronological order such facts as are known of the life outside the Diary."
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February 24, 2018
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