The 100 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time: No 92 – The Diary of Samuel Pepys (1660)

A portrait of an extraordinary Englishman, whose scintillating first-hand accounts of Restoration England are reported alongside his rampant sexual exploits

One day in December 1659, a young civil servant and Cambridge graduate named Samuel Pepys went to the shop in Cornhill in the City of London, where the stationer John Cade sold paper and pens, and bought himself a paper-covered notebook too fat for his pockets and took it home to his lodgings in Westminster. There, having ruled in red ink a left-hand margin down some 282 pages, he was ready. Thus it was that on 1 January 1660 the 27-year-old Pepys made his first diary entry:

“Blessed be God, at the end of the last year, I was in very good health, without any sense of my old pain [in 1658, he’d endured an operation for the removal of a stone], but upon taking of cold. I lived in Axe Yard, having my wife and servant Jane, and no more in family than us three.”

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