Rachel's Reviews > Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self

Samuel Pepys by Claire Tomalin
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's review
Jul 04, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: scotland, read-2011, nonfiction, london, history, hero, female-author, female-author-hero, family-tree, england, 1600s, 1700s, map
Recommended to Rachel by: JoAnne Schov
Read from July 04 to August 17, 2011 , read count: 1


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Reading Progress

07/06/2011 page 8
1.0% "Children were also told to keep their clothes in decent order at all times: Let not thy privy members be/Layd open to be view'd/It is most shamefull and abhord,/Detestable and rude. Four adjectives seem a lot for one small privy member, but children had to be given a sense of its sinfulness."
07/07/2011 page 14
3.0% "On 4 January 1642 the king pursued the five MPs he was trying to arrest from the House of Commons into the City. He was mobbed by huge numbers of tradesmen, apprentices and seamen, all shouting 'privilege of Parliament, privilege of Parliament' -- a difficult mouthful for a mob, but they made it sound frightening."
07/08/2011 page 14
3.0% "Although the king was not harmed, he was thoroughly scared. This was a spectacular moment in English history, and a week later Charles left London with his family. He was not seen there again until his execution in Whitehall, seven years later, when an approving Pepys was by his own account standing in the crowd."
07/08/2011 page 39
7.0% "The college register for October 1653 reads, in the hand of the registrary, John Wood, 'Peapys & Hind were solemnely admonished by mys[elf] & Mr Hill for having bene scandalously overseene in drink the night before; This was done in the presence of all the fellowes then resident in Mr Hills chamber.'"
07/08/2011 page 396
73.0% "In the 1650s Sir Ralph Verney complained about girls learning Latin and shorthand: 'the difficulty of the first may keep her from that Vice, for so I esteem it in a woman; but the easiness of the other may be a prejudice to her; for the pride of taking Sermon notes, hath made multitudes of women most unfortunate..."
07/08/2011 page 396
73.0% "...Had St Paul lived in our Times I am most confident he would have fixed a Shame upon our women for writing (as well as for their speaking) in the Church.'"
07/09/2011 page 42
8.0% "There is a story of a Cambridge student taking his viol into a philosophy class and defending the position of 'sol, fa, mi, la' against three opponents, whom he routed, at which the teacher exclaimed, 'Ubi desinit philosophus, ibi incipit musicus', meaning, roughly, that music begins where philosophy ends."
07/09/2011 page 396
73.0% "[Pepys] calls music 'a science peculiarly productive of...pleasure...Witness theuniversal gusto we see it followed with...by allwhose leisure and purse can bear it' and suggests its teaching could be simplified 'were the doctrine of it brought within the simplicity, perspicuity, and certainty common to all the other parts of mathematick knowledge."
07/09/2011 page 49
9.0% "'Love though blind can smell'"
07/12/2011 page 88
16.0% "This lack of ceremony towards others is partly due to his curiosity being so squarely centered upon himself, on 'that entrancing ego of whom alone he cared to write', in Robert Louis Stevenson's phrase. The famous and obscure, the loved and hated, everyone else revolved round him in his place at the center of the universe. He is also, for the moment at any rate, talking to himself."
07/12/2011 page 87
16.0% "When the diary starts, Pepys has hardly £25 to his name; when it ends less then ten years later he has a fortune of £10,000...In the first pages the Pepyses are too poor to keep their house warm in winter, and are driven out to get their Sunday dinner with his parents on the other side of town;"
07/12/2011 page 87
16.0% "by the end of the year he is enjoying a barrel of oysters pressed on him by a colleague whom he takes home to enjoy the piece of excellent roast beef he has at the fire for dinner. It was the sort of contrast he delighted in."
07/12/2011 page 87
16.0% "And although in its pages Pepys delights in remembering the past and in planning the future, he is always conscious that NOW must be the best time to enjoy life."
07/12/2011 page 89
16.0% "After God and his health, the next sentence places himself as the occupant of his house at Axe Yard and as the head of a family of three, flanked by his wife, whose name he does not find it necessary to give, and their servant, who is named as Jane."
07/12/2011 page 89
16.0% "'Blessed be God, at the end of last year I was in very good health, without any sense of my old pain but upon taking of cold. I lived in Axe Yard, having my wife and servant Jane, and no more in family than us three. My wife, after the absence of her terms for seven weeks, gave me hopes of her being with child, but on the last day of the year she hath them again. The condition of the State [gov't] was thus.'"
07/19/2011 page 107
20.0% "Pepys contrived to kiss one fashionably dressed Dutchwoman in a coach and failed to make headway with another in a guest house where, by Dutch custom, men and women shared bedrooms; although, he wrote frankly, 'I had a month's mind to her'."
07/19/2011 page 107
20.0% "There were other adventures...a visit to a village famous for its thirteenth-century countess, who had given birth to 365 children at one delivery. Pepys was a determined tourist, and he was not going to miss anything on offer if he could help it."
07/19/2011 page 110
20.0% "Montagu, appointed master of the Wardrobe, a government department responsible for all the furniture, liveries and robes required by the court, took Pepys along to inspect the building that came with the job...and they learnt that for the past eleven years, since 1649, it had been run by a charitable body in the City as an orphanage and training school for needy children."
07/19/2011 page 110
20.0% "A group of the children now came to Montagu, dressed in their tawny-coloured uniforms, to sing to him and present him with a petition in which they asked not to be turned out. But turned out they were. 'My Lord did bid me give them five pieces of gold at his going away,' wrote Pepys, and that was that."
07/19/2011 page 114
21.0% "He was also somehwat disconcerted by this new aspect of my Lords's talk and put it down to his indifference to religion. Manfully, he wrote down Sandwich version of a saying of his father's, that a man who gets a wench with child 'and marries her afterward it is as if a man should shit in his hat and then clap it upon his head'."
07/20/2011 page 120
22.0% "Pall was also offered a place in the household. She was still living...with her parent, and, to make sure she had no illusions about the position they expected her to occupy with them, she was told bluntly that she was to come, 'not as a sister in any respect but as a servant'."
07/20/2011 page 120
22.0% "The tears she shed, Pepys decided, were brought on by her joy at the prospect of working for them; and perhaps she did expect to have more fun with Elizabeth and Jane than with her mother, and accepted that a brother who had risen to such heights of success might be entitled to forget to be civil to his own sister."
07/20/2011 page 120
22.0% "She arrived early in January 1661 and, to emphasize what had already been said, was forbidden to sit down at table with her brother and sister-in-law on her first day in the house."
07/21/2011 page 121
22.0% "Over the next few years he even managed to misbehave with some style. He stayed out late. He became too friendly with the maids, corrupting them, according to Pepys...He got drunk. He refused to go to church. He wore his hat in the house and flung his cloak dramatically over his shoulder in the street 'like a ruffian'."
07/21/2011 page 409
75.0% "Diary, 8 June 1662: 'observe ny man Will to walk with his cloak flung over his shoulder like a Ruffian; which whether it was that he might not be seen to walk along with the footboy, I know not, but I was vexed at it.'"
07/21/2011 page 122
22.0% "Another thing they had in common was a name that defeated almost everyone who tried to write it down. Will Hewer's appeared in variations ranging exotically through Ewre, Ewere and Eure to Hewers, Hewest, Yewers and Youar, though he seems to have stuck to 'Hewer' himself, as Pepys did to Pepys, although he appeared as Pepies, Paypes, Pepes, Peeps, Peppiss, Peipes, Peepys, Pypss and more."
07/21/2011 page 123
23.0% "He had suspected Diana of being not as good as she should be over drinks at her mother's house one evening...when Pepys got her alone he found her surprisingly compliant, and for the first time resorted to a foreign language in the Diary to record his success: 'nulla puella negat', he wrote in Latin, meaning 'the girl refused nothing'."
07/24/2011 page 411
76.0% "For Charles's letter to Pepys, 15 Mar. 1667...His spelling is wonderful, e.g., 'harrey caen' for 'hurricane', 'Scowayer' for 'squire'. But his status as a Pepys with sons meant he was a residual legatee in Pepys's will."
07/24/2011 page 132
24.0% "Her future was a worry to him. 'G-d knows...what will become of her, for I have not anything yet to spare her, and she grows now old and must be disposed of one way or another'--this in 1663, when she was twenty-three."
07/25/2011 page 132
24.0% "'A plain young man, handsome enough for her; one of no education nor discourse...I shall have no pleasure nor content in him, as if he had been a man of breeding', wrote Pepys when he met him. Neither he nor Elizabeth attended the wedding...Pepys merely noted the news of it a few days later and wrote to congratulate his father, not Jackson or Pall herself."
07/26/2011 page 140
26.0% "The legacy of the commonwealth in 1660 was a fleet of 157 ships, the largest number ever yet in service in England."
07/26/2011 page 141
26.0% "Vane's last words, deliberately made inaudible to the crowd by drumbeats from the attending soldiers, have passed into history: 'It is a bad cause which cannot bear the words of a dying man.'"
07/27/2011 page 185
34.0% "The following day, Whitsunday, he celebrated with Betty Martin after church ('did what he voudrais avec her, both devante and backward', he boasted to himself."
07/27/2011 page 186
34.0% "Myngs was only eight years older than him, another of the commonwealth stalwarts who had gone to sea as a boy and become a captain at twenty; now he was dead at forty-one, shot through the face. After the funeral a group of seamen approached Coventry's coach, tears in their eyes, and told him they would like to avenge the death of their commander by taking a fireship against the enemy."
07/27/2011 page 186
34.0% "'We are here a Dozen of us that have long known and loved and served our dead commander, Sir Chr. Mings, and have now done the last office of laying him in the ground. We would be glad we had any other to offer him, and in revenge of him--all we have is our lives."
07/27/2011 page 186
34.0% "If you will please get His Royal Highness to give us a Fireshipp among us all, here is a Dozen of us...that shall show our memory of our dead commander and our revenge.' It was the grandest possible gesture of courage, offered out of loyalty and selfless love, and it came from a world whose values were remote from these prevailing in the circles about the king."
07/29/2011 page 187
34.0% "...and commissioning some specially made glass-fronted bookcases, because, he wrote, his books were 'growing numerous, and lying one upon another on my chairs'. He helped to design them, they were built by a naval joiner, and they are the first-known purpose-built bookcases in England, and still in use. ... *They are constructed to take to bits for easy carriage."
08/01/2011 page 196
36.0% "He could be blisteringly rude to her face, too; as they walked to church one Sunday he was so critical of her clothes that she went home again, and then too herself to a different church. Another day he called her a whore for wearing ill-matching ribbons."
08/07/2011 page 245
45.0% "[Penn] told Pepys that Jane had attacked one of the carpenters working on the building site, cutting off his mustache, a Delilah-like gesture that was probably self-defence. Girls in her situation needed to work out their strategies. The carpenter said his wife, when she saw the damage, assumed he had been 'among some of his wenches.'"
08/09/2011 page 427
78.0% "Robert Hooke (1635-1703) was an outstandingly experimental scientist and architect...He was an official of the Royal Society, a book collector, interested in a universal language...He was unmarried, regarded as eccentric, difficult and quarrelsome, partly because he was reluctant to publish his results and then bitter when others claimed to have reached them ahead of him."
08/09/2011 page 427
78.0% "As well as being almost of an age with Pepys, inhabited the same world, that of professional men working in London...Compared with Pepys's, Hooke's diary is exiguous, often no more than a few words a day...Pepys admired him greatly as a scientist, and he figures in the Diary in 1665, 1666, 1667 and 1668. Pepys is also mentioned in Hooke's diary."
08/09/2011 page 252
46.0% "Pepys became a member of the Royal Society in 1665 and went on to become its president in1684. As president his name appears on the title page of Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica, linking him for ever with the great English scientist, but although Pepys was acquainted with Newton and had some correspondence with him, his own scientific credentials were almost nonexistent."
08/09/2011 page 251
46.0% "Whatever scoldings, tears, beatings, fumblings in dark corners and other bad behaviour he had handed out to Jane were long forgotten; and in this case time allowed him to redeem himself doubly: by making the end of her life as comfortable as possible amd also, though she never knew it, by leaving an admirable portrait of her to posterity."
08/09/2011 page 252
46.0% "Yet Pepys was a secret scientist of a kind, if only through his scrutiny of himself, and the candid, dispassionate, regular and detailed record he made of his own physical, moral and psychological state."
08/09/2011 page 253
47.0% "Newton, intended for a farmer, and Hooke, intended for the Church, were both also dedicated model-makers as children; they made mechanical toys, Hooke produced a working wooden clock and Newron made dolls' furniture for the little girls of the village, and a model windmill with a mouse as miller."
08/09/2011 page 252
46.0% "Pepys had what was considered a good education, but it did nothing to encourage him to think scientifically: the word 'science' in its modern meaning did not exist."
08/10/2011 page 253
47.0% "[Gresham College] was endowed in the 1590s by Thomas Gresham, City Merchant and advisor to Queen Elizabeth; and he appointed professors who gave public lectures in English as well as Latin. It was in effect the first open university."
08/10/2011 page 253
47.0% "Wren's speech paid particular tribute to the culture of the City. He praised it as the centre of mechanical arts and trade as well as liberal sciences, 'in such a Measure, as is hardly to be found in the Academies [i.e., Oxford and Cambridge] themselves'. Its citizens were 'the Masters of the Sea', the City itself another 'Alexandria, the established Residence of Mathematical Arts'."
08/10/2011 page 254
47.0% "He enjoyed conversation with men whose minds travelled along original lines: at the coffee house William Petty stirred his imagination with the suggestion that we cannot know for certain whether or not we are dreaming when we think ourselves awake and waking when we dream. Petty was in his view 'one of the most rational men that ever I heard speak with a tongue, having all his notions the most distinct and clear'."
08/10/2011 page 428
79.0% "Hooke's diary for 28 Aug. 1676, 'I was twice with Mr Pepys who was very civill and kind.' Also for 3 June 1693, 'I called at Mr Pepys very kind.'"
08/14/2011 page 262
48.0% "Pepys claimed to be offended by the 'loose expression' of Lady Robinson, wife of the lieutenant of the Tower:'Look, there is a pretty man; I could be contented to break a commandment with him,' but to us she sounds like a Congreve heroine."
08/14/2011 page 265
49.0% "Speaking for himself, he has a whole range of voices. One is as rude and alive as the language of the Jacobean playwrights, with their homely imagery of dogs and food, their double negatives and stark affirmations. 'I shall be revenged of him,' he writes, like a shout on the page. About an office enemy in trouble, 'but all will not nor shall not do, for out he shall go'."
08/14/2011 page 265
49.0% "Of Luce, an unsatisfactory cookmaid: 'She was a very drudging, working wench; only she would be drunk.' Worrying about plans that may miscarry, he fears that 'All my cake will be doe [dough] still.'...Someone returns from France 'an absolute Monsieur'."
08/16/2011 page 303
56.0% "And even this Pepys could be resented in the House; he was accused of speaking 'more like an admiral than a secretary'. No doubt he did. The French ambassador reported that he was one of the vest speakers in England."
08/16/2011 page 303
56.0% "He put forward...a proposal that no one should be appointed as lieutenant until he had served for three years, received a certificate from his captain and passed an examination in navigation and seamanship at the Navy Office. Prince Rupert opposed it, but the flag officers and the king supported Pepys, and the first examinations took place early the next year."
08/16/2011 page 303
56.0% "Pepys had made history at a stroke, bringing about a revolution in the way the navy was run, fired by his belief that education and intelligence were more useful to the nation than family background and money; and that however gallant and courageous 'gentlemen' captains might be, the service needed to be professionalized. It was a very natural idea for one who had received his own education in Cromwell's England."
08/16/2011 page 303
56.0% "The same faith in education led him to persuade the king to give money to Christ's Hospital School to endow a mathematics department where boys could be prepared for the navy...He became the governor of Christ's Hospital, and also of Bridewell Prison, where for the first time a schoolmaster was installed for child inmates in the year of his appointment, 1675."
08/16/2011 page 305
56.0% "It makes you wonder how he ever got out of bed at all, let alone ran and reformed a government department, addressed parliament and attended the king wherever he happened to be. His words reveal his body as a rickety and uncertain machine with trouble in almost every part...Even by the standards of the time, when people had little choice but to accept pain, his refusal to let it interfere with his work is striking."
08/16/2011 page 305
56.0% "Phsysical suffering may even have been a spur to activity for some. Shaftesbury also suffered chronic pain and recurrent jaundice for years from a cyst on the liver, for which he had surgery in 1668, and he lived thereafter with a tube in his side that was used to drain the wound."
08/16/2011 page 316
58.0% "'That we have no rack in England, and this is true, and a great blessing surely, but I am told Captain Richardson hath a hole in Newgate which never any man could endure two days without confessing anything laid tohis charge,' wrote a respectable MP."
08/16/2011 page 321
59.0% "Pepys raged: 'taking in all the circumstances of scandal, expense, trouble and hazard, no innocent man was ever embarrassed as I have been, and remain at this. Day, from the villainy of one man of no acquaintence with myself nor credit with any honest man that knows him. The thoughts of which, should I give way to them, would distract me. But God is above all.'"
08/16/2011 page 331
61.0% "Glasgow was 'a very extraordinary town for beauty and trade', he noted, but the Scots in general he found short on hygiene, as he explained with Johnsonian candour to Hewer: 'a rooted nastiness hangs about the person of every Scot (man and woman), that renders the finest show they can make nauseous, even among those of the first quality'."
08/16/2011 page 332
61.0% "His backbreaking service to the king and the navy had been rewarded neither with honours nor with a great fortune...He had suffered wounds...of a kind that do not easily heal...[the king's] failure to appreciate the value of Pepys's service or to help him. 'Most princes...think that they ought never to remember past services, but that their acceptance of them is a full reward,' wrote his contemporary."
08/16/2011 page 337
62.0% "Many of Pepys's virtues appear in these notes -- his open-mindedness, for instance, as he insists on the superiority of the diet of the Turkish navy, almost meatless and rich in water, oil, olives and rice, over the beef-and-beer obsessed English."
08/16/2011 page 337
62.0% "We see the genesis of what became the Navy List as he jots down the idea of a list of all captains, to be drawn up: he saw that proper list-making was an essential adjunct to discipline. He was also insistent on the importance of captains keeping proper journals of all voyages, which many simply did not bother to do."
08/16/2011 page 337
62.0% "'Then, suddenly, in the middle of these busy notes, he describes taking a boat, going out rowing alone and experiencing a moment of sublimity: 'I know nothing that can give a better notion of infinity and eternity than the being upon the sea in a little vessel without anything in sight but yourself within the whole hemisphere.'"
08/16/2011 page 337
62.0% "Pepys jotted down a few terse, impersonal notes about Spanish life: 'Won't piss on the streets, but doors.' 'Rare to see a Spaniard drunk.' 'A ploughman, or even a beggar that has not shoes to his feet, will have slashed sleeves and his laced band sewed to his shirt.'"
08/17/2011 page 345
63.0% "[William Petty] believed women should be properly educated...: 'one day Arithmetick and Accountantship will adorn a young woman better than a suit of ribbands'."
08/17/2011 page 345
63.0% "He proposed decimal coinage and a national health system. He suggested punishing thieves by labour rather than imprisonment. He scorned a peerage -- 'I had rather be a copper farthing of intrinsic value, than a brass half crown' -- and at the end of hus life was advising William Pennthe younger how to run his colony."
08/17/2011 page 350
64.0% "A week after the proclamation of the new monarchs he resigned his secretaryship. The changes he saw coming in the Navy Office were one reason. There was also his personal loyalty to James, which now became more to him than any principle unvolved -- for Pepys was a parliamentarian and no believer in absolute monarchy."
08/17/2011 page 351
65.0% "Pepys could not bring himself to make the necessary adjustments. Memories of the accommodations of 1660 surely made their contribution. He was not going to turn his coat again...The new secretary to the Admiralty wrote requiring Pepys to hand over his official papers and furniture, and, since his house had been used as a government office, he was also required to vacate it."
08/17/2011 page 351
65.0% "He dug in his heels at this point and made so many difficulties that the Admiralty gave up and decided in April that it would be easier to set up their offices somewhere else. Pepys remained at the end of Buckingham Street with his household, his books, his pictures, his papers and his view over the Thames, paying his own rent, stubborn and, for the first time in his life, a hero."
08/17/2011 page 352
65.0% "He had the sustaining force of the love of old friends, and he never stopped making new ones, including younger men whose promise he saw and did what he could to help along."
08/17/2011 page 354
65.0% "Pepys was absent -- in prison -- where he received a furious letter of complaint from 'brother Balty': 'I understand that by the malicious inventive ill Offices of a of a female Beast, which you keepe, I am like allsoe to lye under your Anger and disgrace.'"
08/17/2011 page 354
65.0% "'...but I hope, and humbly pray (though she told me impudently, and arrogantly, you Scorned to see me) that with your Generous Usuall goodness, wisdome, manhood and former kindness you will not damn him Unheard whoe Shoold Joy to haxzard...his dearest Bludd for your Service.'"
08/17/2011 page 373
69.0% "Mrs Skinner left him 'two broad pieces of gold to buy him a ring', which was more than went to some of her children; her daughter Elizabeth, working as a servant, got £100 on condition she did not marry a certain Thomas Byutt. Parents found it irresistible to try to control their children after death, and both Mrs Skinner and Pepys used their wills as a means of maintaining their power."
08/17/2011 page 385
71.0% "[Robert Louis Stevenson] insisted that [Pepys] meant [the Diary] to survive -- 'Pepys was not such an ass, but he must have perceived, as he went on, the extraordinary nature of the work he was producing.'"
08/17/2011 page 385
71.0% "He called him 'an unparalleled figure in the annals of mankind' for three reasons. First, that he was 'known to his contemporaries in a halo of almost historical pomp, and to his remote descendants with an indecent familiarity'; secondly for his honesty about himself;"
08/17/2011 page 385
71.0% "and thirdly for his ability to place himself before us with 'such a fullness and such an intimacy of detail as might be envied by a genius like Montaigne'."
08/17/2011 page 385
71.0% "It was agreed...that some passages were too indecent ever to appear; and...it was only in 1976, when the final volume of William Matthews's new transcription of the Diary -- the third to be made -- appeared in print, that it was published in its entirety as Pepys had written it three hundred years earlier, and as he left it to the world."
08/17/2011 page 385
71.0% "Pepys's life was a drama from start to end. It had its ordeals by sickness, passion, fire, bereavement, imprisonment, false accusation and revolution, and it was played out against the most disturbed years in England's history, a period as intellectually thrilling as it was dangerous and bloody."
08/17/2011 page 386
71.0% "He had the gift of making friends with the many outstanding men he encountered, winning their love and respect by his charm, his curiosity and mental agility, his conversation and hospitality. Men of state, shipbuilders, engineers, merchants, scholars, physicians and writers all cheered his later years. Women he did not see as friends, even when he loved them."
08/17/2011 page 386
71.0% "The most unlikely thing at the heart of his long, complex and worldly life is the secret masterpiece. Nobody knew, and nobody could have imagined, that a young man...building his career and pursuing his pleasure with unbounded appetite, should have found the energy and commitment to create a new literary form, and that it should become a work of genius."
08/17/2011 page 386
71.0% "He does not seem to have started out with conscious dedication. Rather it grew within him. He felt its demands and was enlisted in its cause. So he came to render a whole society and at the same time to present himself as a hero of an altogether new kind."
08/17/2011 page 386
71.0% "And as he did so he forged a language -- vigorous, precise, enchanting -- in which to do what had not been done before, revealing discoveries as curious in their way as any of those his scientific and philosophical colleagues, discoveries of the complex relations between the inner and outer worlds of a man."
08/17/2011 page 386
71.0% "The achievement is astounding, but there is no show or pretension; and when you turn over the last page of the Diary you know you have been in the company of both the most ordinary and the most extraordinary writer you will ever meet."

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