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Extracts from Pepys diary

From 1660 to 1669 Samuel Pepys kept a diary in shorthand which was not deciphered until the ninteenth century. Since it was never intended to be read, Pepys showed a remarkable degree of honesty about contemporary events, not to mention frankness about his private life. In later life he became President of the Royal Society for a time, and an acquaintance of Newton.

The following quotations are taken from the Everyman edition.

15th July 1661

Pepys demonstrates the travel time between London and Cambridge.

Up by three o'clock this morning, and rode to Cambridge, and was there by seven o'clock, where, after I was trimmed, I went to Christ College, and found my brother John at eight o'clock in bed, which vexed me.

1st March 1664/5

Hooke foreshadows Halley's comet prediction. Pepys joins the Royal Society. Before the publication of Newton's Principia in 1687, Pepys had become its President.

To Gresham College, where Mr. Hooke read a second very curious lecture about the late Comet; among other things, proving very probably that this is the very same Comet that appeared before in the year 1618, and that in such a time probably it will appear again, which is a very new opinion; but all will be in print. Then to the meeting where Sir G. Carteret's two sons, his own, and Sir N. Slaning, were admitted to the Society: and this day I did pay my admission money, 40s., to the Society. Here was very fine discourses and experiments, but I do lack philosophy enough to understand them, and so cannot remember them. Among others, a very particular account of the making of the several sorts of bread in France, which is accounted the best place for bread in the world.

7th June 1665

Pepys' first contact with the Plague.

The hottest day that ever I felt in my life. This day, much against my will, I did in Drury Lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and ``Lord have mercy upon us!'' writ there; which was a sad sight to me, being the first of the kind that, to my remembrance, I ever saw. It put me into an ill conception of myself and my smell, so that I was forced to buy some roll-tobacco to smell to and chaw, which took away the apprehension.

17th July 1665

With the Plague being mentioned in almost every entry, Pepys visits Dagenhams, in Essex.

But, Lord! to see, among other things, how all these great people here are afraid of London, being doubtful of anything that comes from thence, or that hath lately been there, that I was forced to say that I lived wholly at Woolwich.

21st August 1665

No boats available to take Pepys to his wife at Woolwich.

So I was forced to walk it in the dark, at ten o'clock at night, with Sir J. Minnes's George with me, being mightily troubled for fear of the doggs at Coome farme, and more for fear of rogues by the way, and yet more because of the plague which is there, which is very strange, it being a single house, all alone from the town, but it seems they use to admit beggars, for their own safety, to lie in their barns, and they brought it to them.

4th September 1665

It troubled me to pass by Coome farme, where about twenty-one people have died of the plague.

15th September 1665

With Captain Cocke, and there drank a cup of good drink, which I am fain to allow myself during this plague time, by advice of all, and contrary to my oath, my physician being dead, and chyrurgeon out of the way, whose advice I am obliged to take.

16th October 1665

And they tell me that, in Westminster, there is never a physician and but one apothecary left, all being dead.

31st December 1665

Pepys calls this the end of the year, even though the English year still ended officially on 24th March. See 18th February 1666 for contrary usage.

Thus ends this year, to my great joy, in this manner. I have raised my estate from £1300 in this year to £4400. [ . . . ] It is true we have gone through great melancholy because of the great plague, and I put to great charges by it, by keeping my family long at Woolwich; and myself and another part of my family, my clerks, at my charge, at Greenwich, and a maid at London; but I hope the King will give us some satisfaction for that. But now the plague is abated almost to nothing, and I intending to get to London as fast as I can.

18th February 1665/6

Now Pepys implies 1666 has not yet started, as one would expect a 17th century Englishman to say.

Took coach, and home, calling by the way at my bookseller's for a book writ about twenty years ago in prophecy of this year coming on, 1666, explaining it to be the mark of the beast.

23rd April 1666

After abating during the winter, the Plague returns (but never so bad in London as before.)

The plague, I hear, encreases in the town much, and exceedingly in the country everywhere.


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