Samuel Pepys – The Unequalled Self

It took me just under 10 days to get through this amazing book.

Rather than vaguely stumble through the year reading the same genres of book again and again I decided to list books that were outside my usual orbit and try and read them as the year progressed.

Here Claire Tomalin helps the lay reader understand the man behind the 6 volume diary of a tailor’s son who rose through the civil service ranks to become a widely respected powerful man, who was both lauded and vilified by his contemporaries.

My first impressions as I read through the early chapters were just how accessible history becomes when the story is told at a personal level, with real characters. Tomalin often reaches forward towards the present day to help bring context to what is going on.

If you stack up all that Samuel Pepys achieved in establishing his own fortune, and his faithful support of monarchs who regularly looked after their own interests rather than National Security, work with Naval reforms and education you’ll find a man that packed an enormous amount into his three score and ten.

Sadly his diary exposes a man with a disdain for the weaker sex, who’s debauchery was right of the scale. Maybe he was taking his lead from those around him, but we should be thankful that miscreants these days are often exposed and brought low.

Today for example the a US Governor has resigned after being accused of improper conduct towards women, whilst a “Royal” remains tight lipped about his shady past.

In summary this is a splendid book, with myriad details to make history come alive, but in all honesty I’d be happier to have been “fed” less detail on what went on behind closed doors or within his carriage!

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