By Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D.
The diary offers a microscopic view of nearly ten years of one of the most striking periods in English history, from 1660 through 1669, starting with the Restoration of the monarchy after the Civil War. It’s only been about 200 years since academics discovered a way to understand Pepys’s curious shorthand, which covered up things he thought would be politically dangerous. He was in touch with both ends of the social scale, and so he gives you everything: the life of the king, the life of the court-which was full of fascinating characters-and his own domestic arrangements.
Pepys is a man of such fantastic appetite, a rather gifted musician, a lover of gossip and women, and a great survivor. The story of how he navigates a politically tumultuous period, during which people were in and out of royal favor with great regularity, is fascinating. But it’s the naked honesty with which he writes, every foible, every unpleasant characteristic revealed, that makes him, to me, one of the most endearing characters in the whole of English literature, and indeed English history.