The Diary of Samuel Pepys: Vols I-IX 1660-1669 edited by RC Latham & W Matthews

I heard some extracts from Pepys diaries read/dramatised on BBC Radio. I am not a great history buff, I stopped learning history at school when they reached the Middle Ages. Since then my history study has been eclectic, covering the First World War (before it became popular), pieces of social development and some labour histories. I knew nothing of Pepys or his era, but there was something about the BBC readings that hooked my imagination.

The diaries were written over through the 1660s, starting in 1660 and ending in 1669 when Pepys was struggling with his sight and so stopped keeping the diary. There are 11 volumes in this set. There is a volume per year apart from 1668 and 1669 which are combined into one volume. There is also a Companion and an Index which brings it to the eleven volumes.

It’s taken a while to read The Diary, but it was well worth it. I now know a lot more about the period, I doubt there has been quite such a busy decade, the Restoration of the Monarchy, the Plague, the Great Fire of London, the war against the Dutch, it’s all there alongside the private life of Pepys, his wife and servants. It’s an interesting picture of a privileged life. I never really warmed to Pepys, his philandering and double standards exposed him as a man not to be trusted or liked. But despite a dislike for the man himself the diary is worth the effort, if only to show that the BBC version was not true to the Diary and that they had fabricated much for effect.

Would I read the Diary again – yes, given sufficient time


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