A Look at Samuel Pepys

©1995 by


One of my favorite authors is Samuel Pepys.   For almost ten years he recorded his daily life in breathtaking honesty.  His diary reveals his jealousies, insecurities, trivial concerns, and his sad mistreatment of his wife. This truthfulness is ultimately seductive.  His philosophies and feelings are laid open in a way that I have seen nowhere else. 

The openness of the diary is to me Pepys's chief appeal. However it is also important as an account of London in the 1660's.  He records the restoration of the monarchy, war with the Dutch, fire, and plague. Pepys was well placed to view what was happening.  He was always curious and often acted on that curiosity, as he acted upon almost all his impulses.

He spent a great deal of time evaluating his fortune and his place in the world. He would not be out of place in today's environment for self-improvement.  Periodically he would resolve to cut down on drinking and womanizing and to devote more time to those endeavors where he thought his time should be spent. For example, this entry on Dec. 31, 1661, "I have newly taken a solemn oath about abstaining from plays and wine..." The following months reveal his lapses to the reader as by Feb. 17 "And here I drank wine upon necessity, being ill for the want of it."

Pepys's job required that he meet with many people to dispense monies and make contracts. He often laments over how he "lost his labour" having gone to some appointment at a coffee house or tavern there to discover that the person he was seeking was not within.  This was a constant frustration to Pepys. But in our day of instant communication, hanging up the phone and dialing the next person, there is something appealing in setting out to a tavern in the hope that the person you are seeking will be there.

As you read the diary, the pattern of his life, and certain recurring phrases imprint themselves on you. There is a pleasurable sense of the familiar as you begin to anticipate what he will say. Perhaps when you tuck yourself in, you will think "and so to bed," that phrase which so often ends the day's entry.

The diary is unusual in that it can be read many ways. I have the unexpurgated version, which includes nine volumes of the diary. It can be read as any other book, or you can read it on the day that it was written; so that you are celebrating holidays at the same time. A more ambitious reader might read several years worth of the same date, and thereby make a comparison of where Pepys stood from year to year.

In this time when every difference is examined to show how men are unlike women and New Yorkers are unlike Californians, it gives this twentieth century woman great pause to read Samuel Pepys's diary.  You cannot set it aside without thinking how very much alike we must all be.

Read Pepy's for yourself! Order his books online here.

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Samuel Pepys ~ One of my favorite authors
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