The Shorter Pepys, Selected and Edited by Robert Latham from The Diary of Samuel Pepys.

Samuel Pepys by John Hayls (1666).
"30th March 1666: To Hales's [Hayls] and there sat till almost
quite dark upon working my gowne, which I hired to be drawn [in]
- an  Indian gown, and I do see all the reason to expect a
 most excellent picture of it."
The Shorter Pepys is the edited diary of Samuel Pepys: 'shorter', but by no means short - this diary (published in 1985) is approximately one third of the complete diary of Samuel Pepys, but still runs to over a thousand pages (the full diary is said to contain over a million words).

So where to begin? Pepys was born on 23rd February 1633 and died 26 May 1703. He was a naval administrator, appointed Admiral's secretary on 9th March 1660 by his father's cousin Sir Edward Montagu (later the 1st Earl of Sandwich), and on 29th June appointed Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board. In 1673 he was elected an MP for Castle Rising (a constituency abolished in 1832), then in 1679 he was MP for  Harwich (abolished in 2010: the last MP was former Conservative minister Douglas Carswell, who famously defected to UKIP in 2014 and is now a UKIP MP for Clacton). He married Elisabeth de St Michel in 1655, when he was 22 and she was 14, and he suffered from bladder stones, even undergoing a dangerous surgery in 1658 (in the bedroom of Jane Turner, his cousin) to have them removed. He would celebrate this anniversary every year, and lived in fear that his old problem would return. 

Elizabeth Pepys by Rita Greer (2007), based on the now
lost painting by John Hayls (1666).
The Diary begins on 1st January 1660 with Pepys married, and living in Axe Yard in Westminster (very close to Downing Street). He writes by way of introduction,
Blessed be God, at the end of the last year I was in very good health, without any sense of my old pain but upon taking of cold. I lived in Axe yard, having my wife and servant Jane, and no more in family then us three. My wife, after the absence of her terms for seven weeks, gave me hopes of her being with child, but on the last day of the year she hath them again.
The condition of the State was thus. Viz. the Rump [the 'Rump Parliament', established after the 'Long Parliament and dissolved in March 1660 at the Restoration of King Charles], after being disturbed by my Lord Lambert, was lately returned to sit again. The officers of the army all forced to yield. Lawson lie[s] still in the River and Monke is with his army in Scotland. Only my Lord Lambert is not yet come in to the Parliament; nor is it expected that he will, without being forced to it. The new Common Council of the City doth speak very high; and hath sent to Monke their sword-bearer, to acquaint him with their desires for a free and fill Parliament, which at present the desires and the hopes and expectation of all - 22 of the old secluded members having been at the House door the last week to demand entrance; but it was denied them, and it is believed that they nor the people will not be satisfied till the House be filled.
My own private condition very handsome; and esteemed rich, but endeed very poor, besides my goods of my house and my office, which at present is somewhat uncertain. Mr. Downing master of my office.
King Charles II
by John Michael Wright (1661 - 1662)
At this time Oliver Cromwell had been dead for nearly two years and his son Richard was Lord Protector, or Head of State (obviously now Elizabeth II is the Head of State). But Charles II was to return as Head of State and the monarchy thus restored: he was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661 having returned to London from The Hague on 29 May 1660.

Samuel Pepys of course writes about the Restoration in his diary and many other key events of the time: the Second Anglo-Dutch War of 1665–67 and the previous tensions, the Great Plague of 1665 to 1666, and the Great Fire of London in September 1666 to name a few. But I am no historian, and much of this information, the places, and the important figures were new to me and I don't feel as though I've sufficiently processed them to properly write about it all. What I enjoyed most about reading Pepys' Diary was the personal element and the everyday, possibly then mundane, details of his life.

His first entry reads:
1. Lords day. This morning (we lying lately in the garret) I rose, put on my suit with great skirts, having not lately worn any other clothes but them. Went to Mr. Gunnings church at Exeter house, where he made a very good sermon upon these words: That in the fullness of time God sent his Son, made of a woman, &c., shewing that by "made under the law," is meant by his circumcision, which is solemnised this day. Dined at home in the garret, where my wife dressed the remains of a turkey, and in the doing of it she burned her hand. I stayed at home all the afternoon, looking over my accounts. Then with my wife to my father's; and in going, observed the great posts which the City hath set up at the Conduit in Fleet street. Supped at my father's, where in came Mrs. The[oph]. Turner and Madam Morris and supped with us. After that, my wife and I went home with them, and so to our own home.
One of the first things Pepys writes about is his clothes, which is appropriate as I was struck by how many times he mentioned clothes and appearance, new clothes, and the excitement of wearing them. For example, in July 1660:
1. This morning came home my fine Camlett cloak, with gold buttons, and a silk suit, which cost me much money, and I pray God to make me able to pay for it.
5. This morning my brother Tom brought me my jackanapes coat with silver buttons. 
October 1663:
31. Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and at noon home to dinner, where Creed came and dined with me, and after dinner he and I upstairs, and I showed him my velvet cloake and other things of clothes, that I have lately bought, which he likes very well, and I took his opinion as to some things of clothes, which I purpose to wear, being resolved to go a little handsomer than I have hitherto. 
And November 1663:
13.... After dinner came my perriwigg-maker, and brings me a second periwigg, made of my own haire, which comes to 21s. 6d. more than the worth of my own haire, so that they both come to 4l. 1s. 6d., which he sayth will serve me two years, but I fear it. He being gone, I to my office, and put on my new shagg purple gowne, with gold buttons and loop lace...
Finally (not the final mention of clothes in the Diary, I mean finally for this post!), Saturday 19th October 1661:
I not being neat in clothes, which I find a great fault in me
Sermons too are a regular topic in the Diary: Pepys praises good sermons, condemns the poor ones (17th February 116: "A most tedious, unreasonable, and impertinent sermon, by an Irish Doctor. His text was “Scatter them, O Lord, that delight in war.” Sir Wm. Batten and I very much angry with the parson."), and, occasionally we read entries such as this, dated 27th December 1663,
So after dinner to the French church, but came too late, and so back to our owne church, where I slept all the sermon the Scott preaching...
And, 17th April 1664,
I did however go to church with her, where a young simple fellow did preach: I slept soundly all the sermon...
One of the primary sources of entertainment for Samuel Pepys was the theatre and reading, and this is the aspect I probably found most enjoyable. Pepys went to the theatre many many times, even at one point trying not to go as much as he was. Because of this, Pepys' Diary contains a great many references to the plays he saw and books he read. I regret not making a note of these, but I've picked out some references between 1660 - 1661 (picking out references from the entire diary I'm afraid would take far more time than I have, though I wish I could! I did include a funny entry on A Midsummer Night's Dream from 1662. though).

On Shakespeare

11th October 1660:
Here, in the Park, we met with Mr. Salisbury, who took Mr. Creed and me to the Cockpitt to see “The Moore of Venice,” which was well done. Burt acted the Moore; ‘by the same token, a very pretty lady that sat by me, called out, to see Desdemona smothered.
5th December 1660:
I dined at home; and after dinner went to the new Theatre and there I saw "The Merry Wifes of Windsor" acted. The humours of the Country gentleman and the French Doctor very well done; but the rest very poorly, and Sir J. Falstaffe as bad as any.
31st December 1660:
At the office all the morning and after that home, and not staying to dine I went out, and in Paul’s Church-yard I bought the play of "Henry the Fourth", and so went to the new Theatre (only calling at Mr. Crew’s and eat a bit with the people there at dinner) and saw it acted; but my expectation being too great, it did not please me, as otherwise I believe it would; and my having a book, I believe did spoil it a little. 
Later, 4th May 1661:
From thence to the theatre and saw "Harry the Fourth", a good play. 
11th September 1661:
... observed at the Opera a new play, “Twelfth Night” was acted there, and the King there; so I, against my own mind and resolution, could not forbear to go in, which did make the play seem a burthen to me, and I took no pleasure at all in it; and so after it was done went home with my mind troubled for my going thither, after my swearing to my wife that I would never go to a play without her. 
29th September 1662:
... and then to the King’s Theatre, where we saw "Midsummer’s Night’s Dream", which I had never seen before, nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life.

William Berkeley, The Lost Lady, 19th January 1661:
After dinner I went to the Theatre, where I saw "The Last lady", which doth not please me much.
Richard Brome, The Jovial Crew, 27th August 1661:
The play full of mirth. 
Abraham Cowley, The Cutter of Coleman Street, 16th December 1661:
... and after dinner to the Opera, where there was a new play ("Cutter of Coleman Street"), made in the year 1658, with reflections much upon the late times; and it being the first time, the pay was doubled, and so to save money, my wife and I went up into the gallery, and there sat and saw very well; and a very good play it is. It seems of Cowly’s making. From thence by coach home, and to bed.
William Davenant, Love and Honour, 25th October 1661:
After dinner my wife and I to the Opera, and there saw again “Love and Honour,” a play so good that it has been acted but three times and I have seen them all, and all in this week; which is too much, and more than I will do again a good while.
William Davenant, The Siege of Rhodes, 15th November 1661:
 ... to the Opera, where I met my wife and Captain Ferrers and Madamoiselle Le Blanc, and there did see the second part of “The Siege of Rhodes” very well done.
John FletcherThe Woman's Prize, or the Tamer Tamed (a sequel to Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew), saw on 30th October 1660:
... I went to the Cockpitt all alone and there saw a very fine play called "The Tamer tamed", very well acted.
John Fletcher, Beggar's Bush, 20th November 1660:
Mr. Shepley and I to the new Play-house near Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields (which was formerly Gibbon’s tennis-court), where the play of “Beggar’s Bush” was newly begun; and so we went in and saw it, it was well acted: and here I saw the first time one Moone, who is said to be the best actor in the world, lately come over with the King, and indeed it is the finest play-house, I believe, that ever was in England.
Later, on 3rd January 1661 he sees the play again, writing:
... and after that to the Theatre, where was acted “Beggars’ Bush,” it being very well done; and here the first time that ever I saw women come upon the stage. 
John Fletcher, The Humorous Lieutenant, 20th April 1661:
And so saw “The Humersome Lieutenant” acted before the King, but not very well done. But my pleasure was great to see the manner of it, and so many great beauties, but above all Mrs. Palmer, with whom the King do discover a great deal of familiarity.
James Fletcher and Francis Beaumont, The Scornful Lady, 4th January 1661:
After dinner Mr. Moore and I to the Theatre, where was “The Scornful Lady,” acted very well, it being the first play that ever he saw. 
John Fletcher and William Rowley, The Maid in the Mill, 29th January 1661:
... I saw three acts of "The Mayd in the Mill" acted, to my great content.
John Ford, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, 9th September 1661:
... and thence to Salsbury Court playhouse, where was acted for the first time "Tis pitty shee's a Whore" - a simple play and ill-acted; only, it was my pleasure to sit by a most pretty and most ingenious lady, which pleased me.
Ben Johnson, Epicœne, or The Silent Woman, 25th May 1661:
... and then to the Theatre, where I saw a piece of "The Silent woman", which pleased me. 
Philip Massinger, The Bondman, 1st March 1661:
To Whitefryers and saw "The Bondman" acted - an excellent play and well done - but above all that ever I saw, Baterton both the Bondman the best. 
Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, The Changling, 23rd February 1661:
Then after dinner by water to Whitefryers to the playhouse, and there saw "The Changeling", the first time it hath been acted these 20 yeeres - and it takes exceedingly. 
William Rowley, All's Lost by Lust, 23rd March 1661:
At last into the Pitt, where I think there was not above ten more than myself, and not one hundred in the whole house. And the play, which is called “All’s lost by Lust,” poorly done; and with so much disorder, among others, that in the musique-room the boy that was to sing a song, not singing it right, his master fell about his ears and beat him so, that it put the whole house in an uprore.
James Shirley, The Traitor, 22nd November 1660:
... I to the new playhouse and saw part of "The Traytor" (a very good tragedy); where Moone did act the Traytor very well. 
John Suckling, Breneralt, 23rd July 1661:
... saw "Breneralt"; I never saw before. It seemed a good play, but ill-acted. 
Ah, that I had the time to pick out some more! But as I am now running short of time, I do have to start finishing this rather lengthy post. I've mentioned The Great Plague and the Great Fire of London: whilst these parts made for a painful read they were nevertheless interesting in the details of their psychological effects. On the aftermath of the Plague Pepys writes on 30th January 1666:
This is the first time I have been in this church since I left London for the plague, and it frighted me indeed to go through the church more than I thought it could have done, to see so [many] graves lie so high upon the churchyards where people have been buried of the plague. I was much troubled at it, and do not think to go through it again a good while. 
Death was everywhere in the streets, but Pepys (and no doubt his contemporaries) did not get used to it: this was a very traumatic time for London and its residents, which the Diary highlights on numerous occasions.

The Fire of London by an unknown artist.

The fire of London added further trauma to the city. Pepys' entry for the day, 2nd September, is famous, but still I'll quote it here:
(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. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower, and there got up upon one of the high places, Sir J. Robinson’s little son going up with me; and there I did see the houses at that end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side the end of the bridge; which, among other people, did trouble me for poor little Michell and our Sarah on the bridge. So down, with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it begun this morning in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding-lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus’s Church and most part of Fish-street already. So I down to the water-side, and there got a boat and through bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire. Poor Michell’s house, as far as the Old Swan, already burned that way, and the fire running further, that in a very little time it got as far as the Steeleyard, while I was there. Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that layoff; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconys till they were, some of them burned, their wings, and fell down. Having staid, and in an hour’s time seen the fire: rage every way, and nobody, to my sight, endeavouring to quench it, but to remove their goods, and leave all to the fire, and having seen it get as far as the Steele-yard, and the wind mighty high and driving it into the City; and every thing, after so long a drought, proving combustible, even the very stones of churches, and among other things the poor steeple by which pretty Mrs. ———— lives, and whereof my old school-fellow Elborough is parson, taken fire in the very top, an there burned till it fell down: I to White Hall (with a gentleman with me who desired to go off from the Tower, to see the fire, in my boat); to White Hall, and there up to the Kings closett in the Chappell, where people come about me, and did give them an account dismayed them all, and word was carried in to the King. So I was called for, and did tell the King and Duke of Yorke what I saw, and that unless his Majesty did command houses to be pulled down nothing could stop the fire. They seemed much troubled, and the King commanded me to go to my Lord Mayor— from him, and command him to spare no houses, but to pull down before the fire every way. The Duke of York bid me tell him that if he would have any more soldiers he shall; and so did my Lord Arlington afterwards, as a great secret. 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.” That he needed no more soldiers; and that, for himself, he must go and refresh himself, having been up all night. So he left me, and I him, and walked home, seeing people all almost distracted, and no manner of means used to quench the fire. The houses, too, so very thick thereabouts, and full of matter for burning, as pitch and tarr, in Thames-street; and warehouses of oyle, and wines, and brandy, and other things. Here I saw Mr. Isaake Houblon, the handsome man, prettily dressed and dirty, at his door at Dowgate, receiving some of his brothers’ things, whose houses were on fire; and, as he says, have been removed twice already; and he doubts (as it soon proved) that they must be in a little time removed from his house also, which was a sad consideration. And to see the churches all filling with goods by people who themselves should have been quietly there at this time. By this time it was about twelve o’clock; and so home, and there find my guests, which was Mr. Wood and his wife Barbary Sheldon, and also Mr. Moons: she mighty fine, and her husband; for aught I see, a likely man. But Mr. Moone’s design and mine, which was to look over my closett and please him with the sight thereof, which he hath long desired, was wholly disappointed; for we were in great trouble and disturbance at this fire, not knowing what to think of it. However, we had an extraordinary good dinner, and as merry, as at this time we could be. While at dinner Mrs. Batelier come to enquire after Mr. Woolfe and Stanes (who, it seems, are related to them), whose houses in Fish-street are all burned; and they in a sad condition. She would not stay in the fright. Soon as dined, I and Moone away, and walked, through the City, the streets full of nothing but people and horses and carts loaden with goods, ready to run over one another, and, removing goods from one burned house to another. They now removing out of Canning-streets (which received goods in the morning) into Lumbard-streets, and further; and among others I now saw my little goldsmith, Stokes, receiving some friend’s goods, whose house itself was burned the day after. We parted at Paul’s; he home, and I to Paul’s Wharf, where I had appointed a boat to attend me, and took in Mr. Carcasse and his brother, whom I met in the streets and carried them below and above bridge to and again to see the fire, which was now got further, both below and above and no likelihood of stopping it. Met with the King and Duke of York in their barge, and with them to Queenhith and there called Sir Richard Browne to them. Their order was only to pull down houses apace, and so below bridge the water-side; but little was or could be done, the fire coming upon them so fast. Good hopes there was of stopping it at the Three Cranes above, and at Buttolph’s Wharf below bridge, if care be used; but the wind carries it into the City so as we know not by the water-side what it do there. River full of lighters and boats taking in goods, and good goods swimming in the water, and only I observed that hardly one lighter or boat in three that had the goods of a house in, but there was a pair of Virginalls in it. 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. Barbary and her husband away before us. We staid till, it being darkish, we saw the fire as only one entire arch of fire from this to the other side the bridge, and in a bow up the hill for an arch of above a mile long: it made me weep to see it. The churches, houses, and all on fire and flaming at once; and a horrid noise the flames made, and the cracking of houses at their ruins. So home with a sad heart, and there find every body discoursing and lamenting the fire; and poor Tom Hater come with some few of his goods saved out of his house, which is burned upon Fish-streets Hall. I invited him to lie at my house, and did receive his goods, but was deceived in his lying there, the newes coming every moment of the growth of the fire; so as we were forced to begin to pack up our owne goods; and prepare for their removal; and did by moonshine (it being brave dry, and moon: shine, and warm weather) carry much of my goods into the garden, and Mr. Hater and I did remove my money and iron chests into my cellar, as thinking that the safest place. And got my bags of gold into my office, ready to carry away, and my chief papers of accounts also there, and my tallys into a box by themselves. So great was our fear, as Sir W. Batten hath carts come out of the country to fetch away his goods this night. We did put Mr. Hater, poor man, to bed a little; but he got but very little rest, so much noise being in my house, taking down of goods.
Pepys travelled a great deal by river, and over the coming days and weeks he saw the flames and the devastation it left behind. On 15th September of the same year he writes,
But much terrified in the nights now-a-days with dreams of fire, and falling down of houses.
And again, 27th September,
A very furious blowing night all the night; and my mind still mightily perplexed with dreams, and burning the rest of the town, and waking in much pain for the fleete.
On 18th September,
Troubled at my wife’s haire coming off so much.
One wonders if this is to do with the trauma of the fire and plague. Harrowing, but a very informative read in this respect.


Here I need to start concluding this post. Pepys' Diary is quite simply an excellent read for both entertainment and as a historical document. Pepys 'the man' is most interesting: not entirely sympathetic (his infidelity with his wife's best friend is a low point, but those diary entries (from 25th October 1668) are remarkably sensitive and poignant. There is so much in The Shorter Pepys (from the Restoration of Charles II to bowl movements!) I would have to spent at least a week just to write what I found interesting in it. I spent about a month reading this, and for a month I had an excellent companion. I was sad to finish it, but I will certainly be re-reading it once more in the future (and will hopefully pick out a few more of those theatre references!).

To finish, Pepys' final diary entry from 31st May 1669:
Up very betimes, and so continued all the morning with W. Hewer, upon examining and stating my accounts, in order to the fitting myself to go abroad beyond sea, which the ill condition of my eyes, and my neglect for a year or two, hath kept me behindhand in, and so as to render it very difficult now, and troublesome to my mind to do it; but I this day made a satisfactory entrance therein. Dined at home, and in the afternoon by water to White Hall, calling by the way at Michell’s, where I have not been many a day till just the other day, and now I met her mother there and knew her husband to be out of town. And here je did baiser elle, but had not opportunity para hazer some with her as I would have offered if je had had it. And thence had another meeting with the Duke of York, at White Hall, on yesterday’s work, and made a good advance: and so, being called by my wife, we to the Park, Mary Batelier, and a Dutch gentleman, a friend of hers, being with us. Thence to “The World’s End,” a drinking-house by the Park; and there merry, and so home late. 
And thus ends all that I doubt I shall ever be able to do with my own eyes in the keeping of my journal, I being not able to do it any longer, having done now so long as to undo my eyes almost every time that I take a pen in my hand; and, therefore, whatever comes of it, I must forbear: and, therefore, resolve, from this time forward, to have it kept by my people in long-hand, and must therefore be contented to set down no more than is fit for them and all the world to know; or, if there be any thing, which cannot be much, now my amours to Deb. are past, and my eyes hindering me in almost all other pleasures, I must endeavour to keep a margin in my book open, to add, here and there, a note in short-hand with my own hand. 
And so I betake myself to that course, which is almost as much as to see myself go into my grave: for which, and all the discomforts that will accompany my being blind, the good God prepare me! 
Mens cujusque is est Quisque – "Mind Makes the Man"
Further Reading


  1. I read an abridged version of the diary and then the whole nine volume set! Hi life was so interesting and gives such insight into his times.

    1. I would definitely want to read the unedited version - I'm hoping to get a hold of it one of these days. As you say, his life was very interesting, I enjoyed learning about the 1660s from his diaries. Absolutelt invaluable! :)

  2. This sounds fascinating. It was on my list but now I can't wait to read it! Nine volumes is a little intimidating though.

    1. Nine volumes *is* intimidating, but I suppose they could be read at any speed, and picked up and put down for ages. I hope one day I'll read them, but I don't even *own* them yet so best not plan too far in advance! :)


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