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Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self by Claire…
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Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self (original 2002; edition 2012)

by Claire Tomalin

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1,167236,945 (4.15)47
Member:Mercury57
Title:Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self
Authors:Claire Tomalin
Info:Penguin (2012), Paperback, 544 pages
Collections:Twenty-first century, Biographies, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:Biography

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Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self by Claire Tomalin (2002)

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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
I really think Pepy's diary is too distracting to biographers. Obviously the most important source of information about his life, its salaciousness obscures his actual work and accomplishments. I long for a biography that would focus upon his impact on the British Navy and politics of the time. ( )
  KirkLowery | Mar 4, 2014 |
Amazing, fascinating bio. ( )
  lxydis | May 11, 2013 |
Plague, fire, civil war, treason, the fall of kings: Samuel Pepys experienced them all. His was a life that coincided with one of the most momentous periods of English history and he recorded his experiences in meticulous detail in leather-bound diaries writing every day for nine years.

Such a rich source of original material would be a gift for any biographer but for Claire Tomalin they didn’t go far enough because they tell us nothing of Pepys’ childhood and education or, after the Restoration, his public disgrace and humiliation. Through extensive research and examination of contemporary letters and diaries, Admiralty papers, judicial reports, memoirs and biographies, she seeks to fill in these considerable gaps in Pepys’ story.

Tomalin tells the story with panache and energy. Although she has to resort to guess-work and surmise on some occasions, she never stretches credulity too far. Nor, although much of what she writes is necessarily full of facts, she never allows that detail to get in the way of telling a good story. One of the most memorable episodes she tells is of the operation Pepys underwent to remove the bladder stone which had given him excruciating pain for decades. In Tomalin’s imaginative re-creation we experience the same tension Pepys must have felt as he was trussed and bound to the bed and sense every moment of the operation he suffered without the benefit of anaesthetic or numbing alcohol.

Tomalin treats her subject with warmth, enjoying his pleasure in ordinary human activities and admiring his curiousity, his love and support for learning and his intelligence. She acknowledges his egotism, his often bad treatment of the women in his life and his lecherous behaviour but concludes that these never dim his brightness so we ‘rarely lose all sympathy for him. His energy burns off blame.” It’s a credit to Tomalin’s skill that we come to share her enthusiasm for this ‘most ordinary and the most extraordinary’ of men. ( )
1 vote Mercury57 | Dec 22, 2012 |
As Samuel is one of my heroes (a short list of historical figures “who wink at us” – as Walter Isaacson said of Ben Franklin) and owning the Diaries in several formats I was a little cautious in approaching Tomalin’s work. How glad I was that I did, and I devoured it at one sitting, returning to re-read it with equal enjoyment as often as I can (a benefit of growing maturity this!) and it always leads me back to my small collection of Pepys books.

When we lived in London for about seven years my wife and two sons would often explore the city, and often took along one of the ‘complete’ diaries with us and revisited – as one still can – many of naughty Samuel’s favorite flirting, drinking and eating spots.

Claire Tomalin’s work evidences her sheer enjoyment of this great and all too human character, who wrote for his own personal enjoyment of his times and significant career in the creation of the British Navy, through England’s own revolution and short Republic and the eventual return of the Monarch that Pepys served so well.

This book is as deeply intelligent and as charming as the subject himself
  John_Vaughan | May 8, 2011 |
Read for the Motley Fool book club; well I say read, but the library only had an audio-book copy on the shelves when I went in. I didn't know before reading this that Samuel Pepys' relatives were right at the centre of the Roundhead faction. Very interesting! I liked the way the book started, with a diary entry about an argument with his wife being used to show how he tells things as they happened, and doesn't twist things to make himself always appear to be in the right. Reading about Pepys wading knee-deep in cloves and nutmeg in the captured Dutch ship reminded me of a book I read last month; "Nathaniel's Nutmeg", a non-fiction account of the struggles between the English and Dutch East Indies companies for control of the spice trade earlier in the 17th century.

The diaries give a picture of a complex man, at times romantic and usually loyal but always pragmatic. As a naval administrator he was well-organised, thorough and hard-working and it seems clear that Pepys survived the vagaries of 17th Century political life through being very good at his job. He left such a detailed view of London life, politics and society, that you just can't help being drawn into the 1660s.

Most amusing moment: Mrs Skinner, mother of the woman Pepys has lived with for 30 years, left Pepys a small bequest in her will - just enough gold to make a ring. Obviously a woman who believed in having the last word! ( )
  isabelx | Apr 6, 2011 |
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Epigraph
The whole book, if you will but look at it in that way, is seen to be a work of art to Pepys's own address. Here, then, we have the key to that remarkable attitude preserved by him throughout his diary, to that unflinching - I had almost said that unintelligent - sincerity which makes it a miracle among human books...Whether he did ill or well, he was still his own unequalled self; still that entrancing ego of whom alone he cared to write. - Robert Louis Stevenson, 'Samuel Pepys'.
Un livre est le produit d'un autre moi que celui que nous manifestons dans nos habitudes, dans la société, dans nos vices. - Marcel Proust, Contre Sainte-Beuve.
[There is] in every one, two men, the wise and the foolish, and... each of them must be allowed his turn. If you would have the wise, the grave, the serious, always to rule and have sway, the fool would grow so peevish and troublesome, that he would put the wise man out of order, and make him fit for nothing: he must have his times of being let loose to follow his fancies, and play his gambols, if you would have your business go on smoothly. - Anthony Ashley Cooper, Lord Shaftesbury, to John Locke.
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At seven o'clock on a January morning, as the sky over London was growing light, a row broke out in a bedroom between a husband and wife.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375725539, Paperback)

For a decade, beginning in 1660, an ambitious young London civil servant kept an astonishingly candid account of his life during one of the most defining periods in British history. In Samuel Pepys, Claire Tomalin offers us a fully realized and richly nuanced portrait of this man, whose inadvertent masterpiece would establish him as the greatest diarist in the English language.

Against the backdrop of plague, civil war, and regicide, with John Milton composing diplomatic correspondence for Oliver Cromwell, Christopher Wren drawing up plans to rebuild London, and Isaac Newton advancing the empirical study of the world around us, Tomalin weaves a breathtaking account of a figure who has passed on to us much of what we know about seventeenth-century London. We witness Pepys’s early life and education, see him advising King Charles II before running to watch the great fire consume London, learn about the great events of the day as well as the most intimate personal details that Pepys encrypted in the Diary, follow him through his later years as a powerful naval administrator, and come to appreciate how Pepys’s singular literary enterprise would in many ways prefigure our modern selves. With exquisite insight and compassion, Samuel Pepys captures the uniquely fascinating figure whose legacy lives on more than three hundred years after his death.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:40:47 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"For ten years, from 1660, Samuel Pepys kept one of the most remarkable records ever made of a human life. With astounding candour and perceptiveness he described his ambitions and speculations, his professional success and failures, his pettinesses and meannesses, his tenderness towards his wife and the irritation and jealousies she provoked, his extramarital longings and fumblings, his coolly critical attitude towards the king he served and his watchful adaptation to the corrupt and treacherous life of the court"--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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