Famous Lasts Last Entry in Samuel Pepys Diary

About the famous last entry in Samuel Pepys's diary, history and biography of the man.



Samuel Pepys's final diary entry was for May 31, 1669. It concludes: "And thus ends all that I doubt I shall ever be able to do with mine own eyes in 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 longhand, and must be contented to set down no more than is fit for them and all the world to know; or if there be anything, I must endeavour to keep a margin in my book open, to add here and there a note in shorthand with my own hand. And so I betake myself to that course, which is almost as much as to see myself going to my grave; for which, and all the discomforts that will accompany my being blind, the good Lord prepare me!" Afraid that any continuation of his nightly work would ultimately lead to total blindness, Pepys decided to discontinue his diary, even though his vision greatly improved after a grand tour of the Continent in 1669. He had opened his diary nine and a half years earlier, on Jan. 1, 1660, with the words "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 other in the family but us three." Thus, the diary covers only nine and a half years of his 70-year life. He wrote it in the strictest secrecy; even his friends did not know of its existence. To preserve his secret, he wrote the diary in the shorthand called tachygraphy, but this was so complicated he quickly devised his own shorthand system. Even so, his diary consisted of 3,000 quarto-sized pages, which Pepys had bound in six leather volumes. When it was finally transcribed in the 19th century, 1.3 million words covered 9,325 pages and filled 56 volumes. Pepys, who publicly was a great moralist, was a secret lecher, but because he kept no secrets from his diary, it so shocked the publisher that the first edition was heavily bowdlerized.

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