The Celebrated work here presented to the public under peculiar advantages may require a few introductory remarks. By the publication, during the last half century, of autobiographies, Diaries, and Records of Personal Character; this class of literature has been largely enriched, not only with works calculated for the benefit of the student, but ...
The Celebrated work here presented to the public under peculiar advantages may require a few introductory remarks. By the publication, during the last half century, of autobiographies, Diaries, and Records of Personal Character; this class of literature has been largely enriched, not only with works calculated for the benefit of the student, but for that larger class of readers-the people, who in the byeways of History and Biography which these works present, gather much of the national life at many periods, and pictures of manners and customs, habits and amusements, such as are not so readily to be found in more elaborate works. The Diary and Correspondence of John Evelyn, published in the year 1817, is the first of the class of books to which special reference is here made. This was followed by the publication, in 1825, of the Diary and Correspondence of Samuel Pepys, a work of a more entertaining character than that of Evelyn. There is, moreover, another distinction between the two: the Diary of Pepys was written "at the end of each succeeding day;" whereas the Diary of Evelyn is more the result of leisure and after- thought, and partakes more of the character of history. Pepys's account of the Great Fire of London in 1666 is full as minute as that of Evelyn, but it is mingled with a greater number of personal and official circumstances, of popular interest: the scene of dismay and confusion which it exhibits is almost beyond parallel. "It is observed and is true in the late Fire of London," says Pepys, "that the fire burned just as many parish churches as there were hours from the beginning to the end of the fire; and next, that there were just as many churches left standing in the rest of the city that was not burned, being, I think, thirteen in all of each; which is pretty to observe." Again, Pepys was at this time clerk of the Acts of the Navy; his house and office were in Seething-lane, Crutched Friars; he was called up at three in the morning, Sept. 2, by his maid Jane, and so rose and slipped on his nightgown, and went to her window; but thought the fire far enough off, and so went to bed again, and to sleep.
I was drawn to the diaries of Samuel Pepys for the rich sense of British culture and close knowledge of government and civil affairs. I am investigating the time period to fill in my grasp of the interests and activities. The flow of British culture is staid and even now the problems and quirks of the people are the same from the 17 hundreds to the twenty-first century. Their stubborness, their entrenched heirical society, their pompous formality continues. It is their weakness, their strenth and their folly. It is amusing also how the populace takes all these things in stride. This is a daily diary of important government affairs but it is easy reading and varied in its interests. Impressive in this is the information on the plague raging on in London in 1665 and the great fire that consumed it in 1666. Yet living through it, he notes in dispassionate yet sorrowful tones the deaths of one thousand this week, seventeen hundred the next. He is thankfully living away from the center of it. This diary is in multiple volumes, at least twelve and is condensed in the most recent printings. I have the complete work in two volumes. Some of the diary will be inconsequential to some, so the abreviated version would be sufficient. I wanted to see the flow. The full set in my two volumes is 2400 pages. I can pick it up to read at any point year by year. Knowing the people who suround him is helpful but usually an understanding develops in the reading. Footnotes tell more. The man is no saint, a womanizer and unrestrained in his drinking. It seems requisite to his duties. The book is valuable to me and should interest anyone who wants to grasp British culture and government. But it is much more and puts a human face on the disorder. Read a portion in any version to see if you want to continue. I have to rate the book highly but qualify that many would not care to follow it all. It is a prefference and not an indictment of the work. It is unique in its value especially for anyone researching the period. If the subject interests you at all, I recomend it to you.
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