The Diary of Samuel Pepys is one of the most entertaining documents in English history. Written between 1660 and 1669, as Pepys was establishing himself as a key administrator in the Navy Office, it is an intimate portrait of life in 17th-century England, covering his professional and personal activities, including, famously, his love of music, theatre, food, and wine and his peccadilloes. This Naxos AudioBooks production is the world-premiere recording of the diary in its entirety. It has been divided into three volumes. Volume III presents the last three years of Pepys' diary. By then he was in his mid-30s and confident in his ability to deal with differing political factions within the Navy Office; his affection for his wife, Elizabeth, grew ever stronger despite wandering eyes, and he found he was worth £6,000 and more - a considerable sum for the son of a tailor, who started with nothing. His concerns with his eyes grew, and it was with some regret that he stopped writing his diary at the end of May 1669. Leighton Push reads from the Robert Latham and William Matthews' text; prefaces are written and read by David Timson.
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"There is nothing like silence -- it being seldom any wrong to a man to say nothing, but for the most part it is to say anything." -- Samuel Pepys, 6 December, 1667
The eighth (1667, with 201,000 words) and longest volume, of Samuel Pepy's famous diary. I can't believe I only have one volume left. I think the length of this volume/year has a lot to do with the unique circumstances England finds itself in. The war with the Dutch finally ends, but hasn't solved the inadequacies of money and governance in England. Charles II and his corrupt court has made it difficult to even keep a navy. Bills are piling up and debt has grown, and one of the more rational actors (The Lord Chancellor, 1st Earl of Clarendon) was undone by those in the Court that thought he had too much power with the King. He was impeached and banished with few taking his side (except his son-in-law Duke of York, and Henry Coventry*). Anyway, all of this trouble reduces Pepy's activity somewhat, so it appears he has more time to write in his diary, go to plays, prepare for his defense in from to fate House of Commons (Pepys was well respected for his competency and honest among the House of Commons, the nobility and the King), grope women, sleep with women, count his money, and even ejaculate in the Queen's chapel during High Mass on Christmas Eve ("But here I did make myself do la costa be mere imagination, marinade a jolie most and with my eyes open, which I never did before -- and God forgive me for it, it being in the chapel.).
I think one of the reasons I ADORE this diary is the honesty, the hilarity, the boldness of Pepys. It is strange. I've read now over 1 million of the most private thoughts a man can have about life, love, money, politics, ambition, marriage, duplicity, religion, science, etc., and I'm pretty sure I know Pepys better than I have known anyone except my wife and perhaps my children. He has inspired me to keep my own diary and to be as open as I can in it, but even I could never hope to rise to the level of transparency of Pepys who can riff on farts, fucks, and frigates like no man I've ever met or had the pleasure to read.
* His brother William Coventry, however, was one of those largely responsible for his fall.
The last volume (1668, with 128,000 words; 1669, with 52,500 words) and last years of Samuel Pepy's famous diary.
"And thus ends all that I doubt I shall ever be able to do with my own eyes in the keeping of my journal, I being not able to do it any longer, having done now so long as to undo my eyes almost every time that I take a pen in my hand; and, therefore, whatever comes of it, I must forbear: and, therefore, resolve, from this time forward, to have it kept by my people in long-hand, and must therefore be contented to set down no more than is fit for them and all the world to know; or, if there be any thing, which cannot be much, now my amours to Deb. are past, and my eyes hindering me in almost all other pleasures, I must endeavour to keep a margin in my book open, to add, here and there, a note in short-hand with my own hand.
And so I betake myself to that course, which is almost as much as to see myself go into my grave: for which, and all the discomforts that will accompany my being blind, the good God prepare me!"
In 1668 Pepys finds his eyes are getting daily worse. Which, for a man like Pepys who draws so much satisfaction from reading and writing is a real burden. He starts trying different things (having servants and family read to him, limit his reading, limit his writing, using paper Tubes, eye drops, limiting drink, etc) to satisfy his eyes.
The Parliament has been investigating the Navy office and he has to respond to the Committee of Accounts (concerning Prizes) and the Committee for Miscarriages to the Parliament (concerning tickets). His speech before Parliament was so well taken that several people report to Pepys that his speech was "best thing they ever heard" and that he "got the most honor that any could have had opportunity of getting", even that Pepys was "another Cicero."
It might be vanity, but I loved seeing him buying Montaigne's essays in March and Hobb's Leviathan in September.
Things also shift for Pepys late in October of 1668 when Pepys' wife walks in while he is "embracing the girl [Deb Willet, the maid to Mrs Pepys] con my hand sub su coats; and ended, I was with my main in her cunny." Pepys is sorry, indeed, but not repentant. He likes Deb, likes his freedom, likes the strange, but now that he has been caught with his hand, literally, in the maid, his wife requires him to only go out with his servant or her. So his ability to travel alone and grope has severely been limited. Vexing.
While Pepys' position and reputation with the King and in the Navy continues to increase, the deterioration of his eyesight and health requires him to take a vacation and stop writing in his diary. His diary ends in May of 1669.
Afterwards, to give his eyes a rest he travels to France with his wife. She, unfortunately, ends up getting sick in France and dies of a fever shortly after they get back in late 1669. Pepys lives a good and comfortable life both with work and retirement (member of Parliament, Master of Trinity House, President of the Royal Society). Pepys dies almost 34 years after his diary ends in May of 1703.
A good tribute to Pepys is found in an entry by Pepys' contemporary and fellow diarist John Evelyn who writes in his diary about 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. When K. James II. went out of England, he laid down his office, and would serve no more, but withdrawing himselfe from all public affaires, he liv'd at Clapham with his partner Mr. Hewer, formerly his clerk, in a very noble and sweete place, where he enjoy'd the fruits of his labours in greate prosperity.
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 . . . .
Mr. Pepys had been for neere 40 yeeres so much my particular friend that Mr. Jackson sent me compleat mourning, desiring me to be one to hold up the pall at his magnificent obsequies, but my indisposition hinder'd me from doing him this last office."
So, after 9 volumes, 3,100 pages and 1,250,000 words covering 10 years (1660-1669, I am done. And so too, finally too, is Pepys.