YOUNG MR. PEPYS by John Hearsey


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Essentially a Baedeker for the Diary -- an appreciative reconnaissance, with the author supplying just enough background and chronology of major political matters to run alongside (but never outdistance) the high points. He allows Pepys to pace events. For example, instead of roaming London via other accounts to posit the popular response to Charles II's restoration, he merely quotes from the eminently quotable: ""Found the King in the Park. There walked, gallantly great."" Hearsey does not really support his contention that Pepys in his post-Diary years ""would not only reform the administration of the Navy but. . . lay the foundations of the Civil Service itself."" However, by his selection of Pepys' own writing, he rarities and modulates Pepys' personality too often distorted by those ""few notorious passages."" Something of a social climber but with a careful eye on domestic finances; a diligent worker with a Puritan sense of efficiency and thrift (but one who took an unbridled delight in being ""respected and honored by all people""); with a tendency to drink heavily (which he overcame) and amorous dalliance (which was a more protracted struggle); Pepys was an observer of immense vitality and honesty. Hearsey delights in the accounts of marital spats, state and neighborhood gossip and small domestic crises like overcooked dinners, reports which ""annihilate the centuries."" A very good introduction to Pepys for those intimidated by the length and complexities of the ten-year journal in toto.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1974
Publisher: Scribners