A Londoner with extraordinary powers of observation, Samuel Pepys recorded everything he saw and everything he thought about. Thus, consisting of notes on mundane, everyday activities, as well as descriptions of the most important events from almost a decade, Pepys’ Diaries are a great source of knowledge about British history from the time of the Stuart Restoration.
Samuel Pepys was the eldest child, born in 1633, of Jan, a sewing worker, and his wife Małgorzata. They had 11 children, only four of whom lived to adulthood. Samuel was educated at Magdalene College, a Cambridge-owned school. He was fluent in French and Latin. He started his career as a modest clerk, later becoming a member of the most eminent artistic ociations and clubs gathering the upper cles. For some time he held the position of Chief Secretary of the Royal Fleet. He held various positions in parliament, he belonged to the Royal Society – the then academy of sciences. He was trusted by Kings Charles II and James II. He gathered around him the cream of London with Krzysztof Wren, Isaac Newton, Godfrey Kneller, Jon Evelyn and many others.
In 1655, Pepys married 15-year-old Elizabeth Marchant de Saint-Michael, the daughter of a French Huguenot settled in England, poor as a church mouse. On January 1, 1660, he began writing his diary. He had no intention of ever publishing it.
The text begins with the words: “Blessed be God, at the end of last year I was in very good health, without feeling the old pain (…). I lived at Ax Yard, with a wife and a maid, and there was no one in our family but the three of us.”
The marriage with Elizabeth had a specific character. Often the spouses lived separately, and Samuel meticulously described his meetings with other ladies in his diaries. To this day, reading these fragments can be a cause of considerable embarrment, even if you are not a high school graduate graduating from a convent high school.
In addition to intimate details, the text abounds in descriptions of many events. We can imagine what London looked like during the great plague in 1665-1666. According to the researchers, it was the plague. 75,000 people have died from it. up to 100 thousand people. “Oh my God! As everyone looks and talks on the street about death and nothing else (…), the city looks like a tormented and forgotten place,” wrote Pepys.
And when the maid woke him in the early morning of September 2, 1666, London was already burning. Pepys noted: “Churches, houses, all on fire burning at once, the flames made a terrible sound.” Pepys recorded the action of fighting the element at the behest of King Charles II. The king ordered the demolition and blasting of houses with gunpowder. The fire was extinguished on September 6. In those five days, 13,000 were burned. houses and 87 churches.
The author of diaries also wrote down all cultural attractions: what he had read, whose piece had been performed at a concert, and what he had recently seen at the theatre. One cannot overlook the extremely interesting notes concerning many sciences; as can be inferred from his contacts with Isaac Newton.
Pepys decided to stop writing on May 31, 1669. He knew he was losing his sight. He kept his notes in pristine condition and donated them, along with his book collection, to Magdalene College. He died in 1703.
The “Diaries” consists of six volumes, more than a million words. Pepys wrote the entire text in cipher, which perhaps allowed for sincerity he would not have had if he had written like everyone else. John Smith, then a student at Magdalene College, undertook the work of deciphering the Journals in the 19th century. He quickly realized that the key to learning the text would be tachygraphy, which was already used by the ancient Greeks, and Tyron, a Roman freedman, brought this method to Rome. Smith worked on the text for three years (1819-1822). The first edition of them appeared in 1825.
The text was translated into Polish by Maria Dąbrowska, the last, fourth edition was published by the National Scientific Institute in 1978.
One of the quotes from the Diary: “The truth is that I indulge myself all the more knowing that this is the right age of my life to do it; and it has been my observation that most people who are prosperous in the world forget to enjoy themselves while they acquire their wealth, but they reserve it until they acquire it, and then it is too late for them to enjoy it “.
Developed Elizabeth Kieszczyńska