On April 30th, 1665 Samuel Pepys wrote “Great fears of the sickenesse here in the City, it being said that two or three houses are already shut up. God preserve as all!” After these fateful words there ensued the Great Plague of London, followed swiftly by the Great Fire of London. Twenty months later, he concluded 1666 with “Thus ends this year of publick wonder and mischief to this nation, and, therefore, generally wished by all people to have an end… publick matters in a most sad condition; … the City less and less likely to be built again, everybody settling elsewhere, and nobody encouraged to trade … and all sober men there fearful of the ruin of the whole kingdom this next year; from which, good God deliver us!” But his last word is “One thing I reckon remarkable in my owne condition is, that I am come to abound in good plate, …”.
While perhaps as many as 100,000 perished and the rich fled London in the face of the plague, Pepys sent “his wife and gold” out of the city and cautiously continued “life as normal”, complaining about his excessive work and rejoicing at his abounding wealth, all the while observing and recording. This is a unique first-hand account of daily life and civic disaster in London, perhaps the most populous city of that time.
The Diary of Samuel Pepys, kept over the period of a decade, is regarded as the most human and accessible diary of life at the time. Pepys was a careful observer of events and especially people, using his own shorthand to record them in vivid detail and with compassion. This edition focuses on the period of the Great Plague of London and the Great Fire of London and contains all the entries from 1st June 1665 to 30th April 1666 and 1st-8th September 1666 and selected other entries.
About the author: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was an energetic, diligent self-made man with an enquiring mind and a zest for life. Born to humble parents he rose to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty, a role in which he excelled. In addition, he was a member of Parliament and a Fellow, and later President of the Royal Society, counting most of the leading scholars among his friends. He donated his collection of 3000 volumes to Magdalen College Cambridge, together with the funds to build a library to house them. Pepys was no stranger to power, being a trusted confidant of both Charles II and James II. Never-the-less, Samuel Pepys is best remembered for his diary.