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Pepys's diary: something for everyone

Image caption Memorial to Samuel Pepys in his local church, St Olave Hart St near the Tower of London

Anyone can find something in Samuel Pepys's diary that speaks directly to them.

Often the everyday details of his life, interwoven with the great events he took part in, make us feel he is very like us.

Sometimes his accounts are gripping and poignant, sometimes appalling, sometimes hilarious.

But here are some extracts on varied themes:

Downfall of the Rump parliament

The common joy that was every where to be seen! The number of bonfires, there being fourteen between St. Dunstan's and Temple Bar, and at Strand Bridge I could at one view tell thirty-one fires. In King-street seven or eight; and all along burning, and roasting, and drinking for rumps. 11th February 1660

Music and good times

I went to the Bell, where were Mr. Eglin, Veezy, Vincent a butcher, one more, and Mr. Tanner, with whom I played upon a viall, and he a viallin, after dinner, and were very merry, with a special good dinner, a leg of veal and bacon, two capons and sausages and fritters, with abundance of wine. 6th March 1660

A sad time

Within this month my Aunt Wight was brought to bed of two girls, my cozen Stradwick of a girl and a boy, and my cozen Scott of a boy, and all died. 13th September 1660

Christmas ups and downs

Dined at home all alone, and taking occasion from some fault in the meat to complain of my maid's sluttery, my wife and I fell out, and I up to my chamber in a discontent. After dinner my wife comes up to me and all friends again, and she and I to walk upon the leads, and there Sir W. Pen called us, and we went to his house and supped with him, but before supper Captain Cock came to us half drunk... he went away, and so we sat down to supper, and were merry, and so after supper home and to bed. 25th December 1661

Try harder, Shakespeare

....and then to the King's Theatre, where we saw "Midsummer's Night's Dream," which I had never seen before, nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life. I saw, I confess, some good dancing and some handsome women, which was all my pleasure. 29th September 1662

Discovery and domestic bliss

I took coach and to Reeves, the perspective glass maker, and there did indeed see very excellent microscopes, which did discover a louse or mite or sand most perfectly and largely... I took coach and home, and so to my office, after I had been with my wife and saw her day's work in ripping the silke standard, which we brought home last night, and it will serve to line a bed, or for twenty uses, to our great content. 13th February 1664

The great plague

To hear that a labourer I sent but the other day to Dagenhams, to know how they did there, is dead of the plague; and that one of my own watermen, that carried me daily, fell sick as soon as he had landed me on Friday morning last... and is now dead of the plague... To hear that Mr. Lewes hath another daughter sick. And, lastly, that both my servants, W. Hewer and Tom Edwards, have lost their fathers, both in St. Sepulchre's parish, of the plague this week, do put me into great apprehensions of melancholy 14th September 1665

The Great Fire

We staid till, it being darkish, we saw the fire as only one entire arch of fire from this to the other side the bridge, and in a bow up the hill for an arch of above a mile long: it made me weep to see it. The churches, houses, and all on fire and flaming at once; and a horrid noise the flames made, and the cracking of houses at their ruins. 2nd September 1666

Back stage with Nell Gwyn

thence to the King's house, and there saw "The Numerous [sc Humorous] Lieutenant," a silly play, I think; only the Spirit in it that grows very tall, and then sinks again to nothing, having two heads breeding upon one, and then Knipp's singing, did please us... and Knipp took us all in, and brought to us Nelly; a most pretty woman, who acted the great part of Coelia to-day very fine, and did it pretty well: I kissed her, and so did my wife; and a mighty pretty soul she is. 23rd January 1667

Ill-health, church, and scientific inquiry

I must go, and then much against my will staid out the whole church in pain while she expected me at home, but I did entertain myself with my perspective glass up and down the church, by which I had the great pleasure of seeing and gazing at a great many very fine women; and what with that, and sleeping, I passed away the time till sermon was done 26th May 1667

Sex and ornithology

Thence to Mrs. Martin's, where I have not been also a good while, and with great difficulty, company being there, did get an opportunity to hazer what I would con her, and here I was mightily taken with a starling which she hath, that was the King's, which he kept in his bedchamber; and do whistle and talk the most and best that ever I heard anything in my life. 1st March 1668. [Mrs Martin later gave the starling to Pepys]

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