the restoration in shorthand

“Diligence,” Pepys reflected one morning while lying in bed, was the key to his success: “living as I do among so many lazy people… the diligent man becomes necessary … they cannot do anything without him.” The “lazy” were the titled rich who ruled the world of restoration England.

In that languid aristocratic society, Pepys was a plain earnest burgher with a plain,earnest face, and a too earnest fondness for music, as his 1666 portrait testifies. Even the lower rungs of smart society were too much for Pepys and his wife. There was, he said, “a great deal of fooling among them that I and my wife did not like.” But if Pepys was not at the center of things, he did have a knack for being squarely on the edge of them.

—Samuel Pepys by John Hayls, 1666, NPG 211
In his diary, Pepys records on 17 March 1666: ‘I sit to have it full of shadows and so almost break my neck looking over my shoulders to make the posture for him to work by’. The music he holds is his own setting of a lyric by Sir William Davenant, ‘Beauty, retire’.—Read More:

When a British fleet bore Charles II back to England and the throne, Pepys was on board- as a lowly clerk. When science blossomed at the Royal Society, he became a member, though he barely understood what was going on. He had a still rarer faculty: that of absorbing the life around him with the openness of a child and of recording it, in shorthand, with an artist’s persistent eye for the telling detail. The reader of his diary is thrust into the very heart of Restoration England, though the diarist himself never quite got there.

—The graphic above is of the last entry in his diaries where he stops writing because of fears of blindness. It is written in shorthand, except for the date at the bottom of the page.]—Read More:


(see link at end)…May 31st
… 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 reolve from this time forward to have it kept by my people in long-hand, and must therefore be contented to set down no more than it is fit for them and all the world to know; or if there be anything (which cannot be much, now my amours to Deb are past, and my eyes hindering me in almost all other pleasures), 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.

[Here ends the great diary. Pepys’ eyesight seems to have improved after his holiday abroad in the following Autumn. Although he later wrote journals he never continued the personal Diary. Read More:

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