Home Page Button Syllabus / Policies Button Composition Button Grammar Button Rhetoric Button Rhetoric Button Literature button poetry button classical button medieval button Renaissance Button Vocabulary Button



Samuel Pepys: Excerpts from the diary, Longman Edition

Vocabulary: Cavalier, roundhead, epic, Puritan interregnum, the Test Act of 1673, leit-motif, bowdlerized

Introduction: How did Pepys' political sympathies change over the course of his life when we look at his schooling and later his employment after Charles II was restored to the throne? How did Pepys become Lord High Admiral? Of what crime was Pepys falsely accused, and how long was he imprisoned? What event triggered an early retirement for Pepys? What are two techniques Pepys used to maintain the secrecy of his diary? What sort of events does Pepys need to keep secret?

Lecture or Handouts: What is the etymology of the word diary?

Identify the Following Characters and Events from the Diary: The King (King Charles II), my Lord (The Earl of Sandwich), the coronation ceremony, "spewing," the Great Fire of London of 1666

Reading Questions:

  • The Diary
  • When does the first entry take place in the diary?
  • What event in Westminister Abbey does Pepys come to watch on April 23, 1661?
  • When Pepys sits in the choir at the high altar, what "very great grief" does he discover concerning his view?
  • Why does Lord Albemarle eat some of the king's food?
  • What is Pepys' reaction to people who see divine providence in the weather remaining clear for the coronation, but stormy afterward?
  • For what political reasons do Pepys and others take pleasure in Sergeant Glynne's injury involving the horse that fell on him? (i.e., along with Maynard, whom did Sergeant Glynne serve during the civil war that would be a political enemy of King Charles?)
  • What exotic foodstuff from the Americas does Mr. Creed give Pepys to help him deal with his sick stomach during the hangover?
  • What historical event in 1666 does Pepys witness?
  • At first, when Pepys awakens at 3:00 a.m. to view the disaster, he doesn't see much and goes back to bed. How many houses have been burnt down by the time Pepys takes the events seriously?
  • What reaction does the Mayor have in Canning Street when he hears the king's commands concerning the fire?
  • As various boats full of household goods pour out onto the Thames River, Pepys notes that most of them contain at least two musical instruments. What are these musical instruments people rescue from the flames?
  • How do Pepys and Sir W. Penn protect their exotic foodstuffs like wine and Parmesian cheese?

Passages for Identification from "The Diary"

A. The King in his robes, bare-headed, which was very fine. And after all had placed themselves, there was a sermon and the service; and then in the Quire at the high altar, the King passed through all the ceremonies of the Coronacon, which to my great grief I and most in the Abbey could not see. The crown being put upon his head, a great shout begun, and he came forth to the throne, and there passed more ceremonies: as taking the oath, and having things read to him by the Bishop; and his lords

B. I took a great deal of pleasure to go up and down, and look upon the ladies, and to hear the musique of all sorts, but above all, the 24 violins: About six at night they had dined, and I went up to my wife, and there met with a pretty lady (Mrs. Frankleyn, a Doctor’s wife, a friend of Mr. Bowyer’s), and kissed them both, and by and by took them down to Mr. Bowyer’s. And strange it is to think, that these two days have held up fair till now that all is done, and the King gone out of the Hall; and then it fell a-raining and thundering and lightening as I have not seen it do for some years: which people did take great notice of; God’s blessing of the work of these two days, which is a foolery to take too much notice of such things.

C. . . . and there, with his wife and two of his sisters, and some gallant sparks that were there, we drank the King’s health, and nothing else, till one of the gentlemen fell down stark drunk, and there lay spewing; and I went to my Lord’s pretty well. But no sooner a-bed with Mr. Shepley but my head began to hum, and I to vomit, and if ever I was foxed it was now, which I cannot say yet, because I fell asleep and slept till morning. Only when I waked I found myself wet with my spewing.

D. (Lord’s day). Some of our mayds sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast to-day, Jane called us up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose and slipped on my nightgowne, and went to her window, and thought it to be on the backside of Marke-lane at the farthest; but, being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off; and so went to bed again and to sleep. About seven rose again to dress myself, and there looked out at the window, and saw the fire not so much as it was and further off. So to my closett to set things to rights after yesterday’s cleaning. By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down to-night by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish-street, by London Bridge.

E. Here meeting, with Captain Cocke, I in his coach, which he lent me, and Creed with me to Paul’s, and there walked along Watlingstreet, as well as I could, every creature coming away loaden with goods to save, and here and there sicke people carried away in beds. Extraordinary good goods carried in carts and on backs. At last met my Lord Mayor in Canningstreet, like a man spent, with a handkercher about his neck. To the King’s message he cried, like a fainting woman, “Lord! what can I do? I am spent: people will not obey me. I have been pulling down houses; but the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it."

F. Having seen as much as I could now, I away to White Hall by appointment, and there walked to St. James’s Parks, and there met my wife and Creed and Wood and his wife, and walked to my boat; and there upon the water again, and to the fire up and down, it still encreasing, and the wind great. So near the fire as we could for smoke; and all over the Thames, with one’s face in the wind, you were almost burned with a shower of firedrops. This is very true; so as houses were burned by these drops and flakes of fire, three or four, nay, five or six houses, one from another. When we could endure no more upon the water; we to a little ale-house on the Bankside, over against the ‘Three Cranes, and there staid till it was dark almost, and saw the fire grow; and, as it grew darker, appeared more and more, and in corners and upon steeples, and between churches and houses, as far as we could see up the hill of the City, in a most horrid malicious bloody flame, not like the fine flame of an ordinary fire.


To Home Page
Copyright Dr. L. Kip Wheeler 1998-2017. Permission is granted for non-profit, educational, and student reproduction. Last updated January 5, 2017. Contact: kwheeler@cn.edu Please e-mail corrections, suggestions, or comments to help me improve this site. Click here for credits, thanks, and additional copyright information.