Last Entry in Pepys Diary
The 31st of May 1669 AD
Filling six quarto volumes containing some 3000 pages, which when later transcribed ran to more than three times that many, the diary of Samuel Pepys is a magnificent resource for students of his age and of the Navy in particular, but it is also a deeply human story. Written in a complicated codified shorthand every night for nine and a half years generally in dim light, the work took its toll on Pepys’ eyesight, and it was for that reason that he decided May 31 1669 would be his last entry.
In the nearly 10 years recorded by the diarist the great events of the day were set out: General Monck’s part in the Restoration ; the plague of 1665; the Great Fire of London ; Charles II’s coronation in 1661. But so were the minutiae of his life, including his extra-marital affairs; digestion; health; and work in the Admiralty. The last entry is very personal, written in the expectation that he would go blind regardless of ceasing his literary labour. In fact his eyesight improved greatly thanks to the prolonged rest that a grand tour undertaken the same year allowed him. He lived for another 34 years; how sad for history – or historians - that Pepys never changed his mind and returned to the work that nevertheless has made him immortal.
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