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Samuel Pepys the Unequalled Self Unknown Binding – 2002
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|Unknown Binding, 2002||
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Tomalin has managed to expand the Pepys we think we know - she makes the many facets of this complex man shine. Administrator, schemer, lover, hypochondriac, aesthete, musician, scholar, man-about-town. The often contradictory aspects of his character are brilliantly explained; the gap between the public face and private passions and beliefs.
This is essentially the story of one of the first "self made men" in the modern world - Pepys rises from relatively humble country stock to the fringes of power during and after the Restoration. Tomalin makes the political and historical background clear, explains Pepys' involvement with the key players and brings a lot of new light onto his brief imprisonment in the Tower and his return to public eminence. This is a readable, witty and compassionate biography of a complex and driven man - a wonderfully entertaining and insightful book.
Everyone who has ever enjoyed reading Pepys' diary should read this.
It's not too surprising that the diary years form almost half the book; around 180 pages, as compared with about 90 for each of the others. The first & last parts are arranged in roughly chronological order, whilst the middle is organised by topics such as The King, Work, etc, and goes from the beginning to the end of the diary in each chapter, more or less. This is a slight weakness, as the same quotes get re-used rather a lot (for instance, Pepys low opinion of Charles II, especially of his oratorical ability).
But that is a minor quibble. I used to work for the publisher so I picked up my (older) copy of this for practically nothing. Despite a fairly avid interest in history, the period from the Restoration through to the mid-19thC is one I'm not especially keen on. I might otherwise have passed this by & I'm jolly glad I didn't. It really is a very, very good read!
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