James's Reviews > Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self

Samuel Pepys by Claire Tomalin
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Jul 22, 12

bookshelves: biography

Pepys was lucky: he was lucky that he kept a journal during a particularly volatile decade, and felt safe enough to be unusually frank and honest about himself. That said, he seemed to be a nasty, ambitious man (though possessing a zest for life), who could be disgustingly jealous, dishonest, and abusive. His continual adulterous behaviour is also quite unnerving, especially as he turns his vengeful jealousy against his innocent wife.

Nonetheless, this biography does a fairly good job of making his life appear interesting and worthwhile. I'm not as convinced as Tomalin that he was that interesting of a figure, or as good of a writer. Like I said, I think he was lucky. Perhaps I'm not giving him enough credit. I've read snippets of the Diary and the last thing I felt was that it was highly engaging or even possessed an interesting style. Perhaps I've been spoiled by the intervening centuries of self-exploration in literature and am unable to see the little gem buried in the massive amounts of detail.

Anyway, I learned a lot about 17th Century England from this biography and felt I was provided an interesting window onto some very unique individuals and numerous major events (the civil war, the plague, the great London fire, etc.) and that's what made this such an interesting read.
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