Samuel Pepys

pepysThis man is clearly on people’s minds- and why not? This morning, I posted a picture (@professor_tim_wilson) that I drew in a noisy garden, reflecting on the fact that there has been some fake news arising mostly from someone who has been posting modern plague diaries. The most sensational quotation is here:

“On hearing ill rumour that Londoners may soon be urged into their lodgings by Her Majesty’s men, I looked upon the street to see a gaggle of striplings making fair merry, and no doubt spreading the plague well about. Not a care had these rogues for the health of their elders!”

It is not genuine at all and belongs to someone going under the name @PepysDiaries. Would that it were real because it would suggest the great Pepys was prescient indeed. But he was not. He was not even very nice.

I cannot see why anyone would want to pretend to be Samuel Pepys! (unless they had plans for their own personal Mrs Bagwell, I suppose… she must have liked him, or maybe she was just grateful.) the whole diary is a bit distasteful, what about poor Mr Bagwell, who worked so hard to keep Samuel happy. and Samuel’s wife away in Woolwich.

What struck me most in rereading the original plague diaries is simply how patronising they are and what a distance they show between “them and us”. The plague, for all its nastiness, hit the poor far more than the rich, and Pepys wrings his hands about the people in the kent road and the unemployed seamen but I am afraid he does not do much. He is more distracted by Mrs Cooke. And so, Pepys observes at the end that “I have never lived so merrily . . . as I have done this plague-time.” Maybe, he was trying to put a Christmas gloss on a bad situation but it comes across as a bit heartless when so many died around him in London.

This, incidentally, is what the present day Pepys adds to clarify things,

“I hath been told by several fellows that my musings upon the pox in the year of our Lord 2020 are being mistook by some for my diaries of yore. I mean not to make a fool of any man, but hasten to mind my good friends that my quill here doth write of modern-day matters.”

I have found that a good friend, George (from Ireland) has identified the house of Pepys and he gives a very good account himself of the Pepys of plague-time London. It is well-worth a watch. Here is a link:

(You can also check up George’s account of the Edward Lear house.)



Author: timewilson

animator director and teacher

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