Thursday, June 22, 2017

A LITTLE PIECE OF PEPYS

Currently reading the Reverend Smith's 1912 version of The Diary of Samuel Pepys is probably the most famous diary in the English language. This is research I am carrying out for a commissioned feature.

Pepys began documenting his activities on January 1660 and finished in May 1669, a relatively short period. I am enjoying learning first-hand about some of the most turbulent events of the nation’s history, including the coronation of King Charles II, the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London. Pepys was an extremely observant commentator and his diary is an important historical document. Written in his own special shorthand, it is now housed at Magdalene College, Cambridge. I also learned how to write shorthand - in my case, Pitman's New Era which took years to reach 140 words per minute - but well worth the effort. 


Pepys’ diary entry for 22 February 1664 is typical of his blending of domestic details with affairs of state. It begins with an account of Pepys shaving and setting off on his daily business, but goes on to focus on an issue of immense political concern: the acute financial shortages that were a feature of Charles II’s reign. The revenue granted to the monarch by Parliament fell short of the amount actually needed in order to run the country, and the Anglo-Dutch wars of 1664-7 and 1672-4 – coupled with Charles’s extravagant lifestyle – were a further drain on his income. The extravagance of the Royal household was resented by many, and the introduction of a Hearth Tax as a means of raising additional money caused a significant amount of dissatisfaction. Research continues (many thanks to some of my more academic friends for their advice).

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