"the good God prepare me!" - on the Last entry of Samuel Pepys his Diary

31 May 1669, Samuel Pepys, one of world literature’s most famous diarists, wrote the last entry of his diary.
"Up very betimes, and 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 behind- hand 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. 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 Journall, 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 be contented to set down no more than is fit for them and all the world to know; or if there be any thing, 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!" (Samuel Pepys’ last entry in his diary)

Samuel Pepys’ likeness captured by the English Baroque-era portrait painter
John Hayls (1600 – 1679), called “Hales” by Pepys.*

It’s not that Mr Pepys from Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, London, didn’t have had a remarkable career as a civil servant, starting as a Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board during the last days of Cromwell’s rule and climbed the career ladder to become Chief Secretary to the Admiralty and MP and member of various influential boards after the Restoration until he withdrew from public life after the Glorious Revolution to his death in 1703. Thus, Pepys witnessed all the major events of the turbulent English history during the second half of the 17th century, starting out as a staunch Puritan roundhead and becoming an even stauncher Tory and a bit of a bon viveur himself under the Baroque influences of the merry monarch King Charles II. After all is said and done, an interesting biography – for historians specialised in 17th century affairs, if Pepys would not have kept a diary for 10 years, a testimonial of the life and times during the Restoration Era and charming low angle shot on conditions that has few equals, not only as a primary source but as a witty, highly perceptive testimonial that is well readable even after 350 years.

20 years later: Samuel Pepys painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller in 1689

Keeping a journal was not uncommon for professionals of the 17th and 18th century at all, but whatever made Pepys to expand his notes with chronicling events and adding his very personal experiences and observations, from recording regular pub crawls, parties, his love life to novelties and innovations of the day is unclear, but posterity is quite thankful for the idea and the genuine insight into 17th century, ever since his diaries were published after his shorthand was deciphered by a student of theology, Jonathan Smith, in 1825. And thus, Pepys, in hindsight, became one of the most important witnesses of the coronation of Charles II, the Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of London of 1666 and the Second Anglo-Dutch War. He ceased to write when his eyesight began to fail in 1669 and he feared to lose his vision and even if he did not go blind, he dictated professional notes only to a secretary from then on, but already had become one of the most unusual authors and one of the wittiest in literary history.

* The portrait was finished in 1666 and Pepys noted in his diary: "...at noon, home to dinner, and presently with my wife out to Hales's, where I am still infinitely pleased with my wife's picture. I paid him 14l for it, and 25s for the frame, and I think it is not a whit too dear for so good a picture. It is not yet quite finished and dry, so as to be fit to bring home yet. This day I begin to sit, and he will make me, I think, a very fine picture. He promises it shall be as good as my wife's, and I sit to have it full of shadows, and do almost break my neck looking over my shoulder to make the posture for him to work by."

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