31 May 1669, 345 years ago, Samuel Pepys, one of world literature’s most famous diarists, wrote the last entry of his diary.
"Up very betimes, and continued all the morning with W. Hewer, upon examining and stating my accounts, in order to the fitting myself to go abroad beyond sea, which the ill condition of my eyes and my neglect for a year or two hath kept me behind- hand in, and so as to render it very difficult now and troublesome to my mind to do it; but I this day made a satisfactory entrance therein. Had another meeting with the Duke of York at White Hall on yesterday's work, and made a good advance: and so being called by my wife, we to the Park, Mary Batelier, and a Dutch gentleman, a friend of hers, being with us. Thence to "The World's End," a drinking house by the Park; and there merry, and so home late. And thus ends all that I doubt I shall ever be able to do with my own eyes in the keeping of my Journall, I being not able to do it any longer having done now so long as to undo my eyes almost every time that I take a pen in my hand; and therefore, whatever comes of it, I must forbear: and therefore resolve, from this time forward to have it kept by my people in long-hand, and must be contented to set down no more than is fit for them and all the world to know; or if there be any thing, I must endeavour to keep a margin in my book open, to add here and there a note in short-hand with my own hand. And so I betake myself to that course, which is almost as much as to see myself go into my grave: for which, and all the discomforts that will accompany my being blind, the good God prepare me!" (Samuel Pepys’ last entry in his diary)
|Samuel Pepys’ likeness captured by the English Baroque-era portrait painter |
John Hayls (1600 – 1679), called “Hales” by Pepys.*
It’s not that Mr Pepys from Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, London, didn’t have had a remarkable career as a civil servant, starting as a Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board during the last days of Cromwell’s rule and climbed the career ladder to become Chief Secretary to the Admiralty and MP and member of various influential boards after the Restoration until he withdrew from public life after the Glorious Revolution to his death in 1703. Thus, Pepys witnessed all the major events of the turbulent English history during the second half of the 17th century, starting out as a staunch Puritan roundhead and becoming an even stauncher Tory and a bit of a bon viveur himself under the Baroque influences of the merry monarch King Charles II. After all is said and done, an interesting biography – for historians specialised in 17th century affairs, if Pepys would not have kept a diary for 10 years, a testimonial of the life and times during the Restoration Era and charming low angle shot on conditions that has few equals, not only as a primary source but as a witty, highly perceptive testimonial that is well readable even after 350 years.
* The portrait was finished in 1666 and Pepys noted in his diary: "...at noon, home to dinner, and presently with my wife out to Hales's, where I am still infinitely pleased with my wife's picture. I paid him 14l for it, and 25s for the frame, and I think it is not a whit too dear for so good a picture. It is not yet quite finished and dry, so as to be fit to bring home yet. This day I begin to sit, and he will make me, I think, a very fine picture. He promises it shall be as good as my wife's, and I sit to have it full of shadows, and do almost break my neck looking over my shoulder to make the posture for him to work by."
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