Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

MAY 26th

On this day in history in 1703, died Samuel Pepys.

Pepys was a naval official, renowned for his diary, which gives an absorbing portrait of city life of the late Seventeenth Century. 

The most important event of this era was The Great Fire of London, which Pepys describes in graphic detail. He writes ‘We saw the fire as only one entire arch of fire from this to the other side of 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 ruine.’  

Much of the diary is given over to the banal aspect of life. After a thunderstorm he wrote ‘About 3 o'clock this morning I waked with the noise of the rain, having never in my life heard a more violent shower; and then the cat was locked in the chamber and kept a great mewing and leapt upon the bed, which made me I could not sleep a great while.’ When The Great Fire of London was blazing he was busy protecting his cheese by burying it in the garden for safety.  

Pepys was completely honest in his recordings. He tells of his taking bribes whilst serving at the Admiralty, of his affairs with many mistresses and of his lapses into drunkenness. From this we can gather that the diary is an honest reflection of Pepys himself and of the times in which he lived.  

Pepys left his book collection to his old college, Magdalene, Cambridge where they are preserved in a distinctive museum. The diary itself was only discovered in the Nineteenth Century when fragments of it were copied and distributed. The work became so poplar that eventually it was published in its entirety.

Previous day       Next day      

©2006 Ward’s Book of Days