More than a dozen years ago, when I first considered writing, I can't remember the source, but I was advised to write a diary. I've been doing that for years and undoubtedly the quality will be varied but in writing the diaries I have also created a record of some of the events that have occurred over the time of writing.
Pepys never intended for his diaries to be made public but the 1.25 million words have given us a vivid glimpse into life in the 1660s. It was an extremely turbulent time with the end of Cromwell's republic and the restoration of the monarchy; the Great Plague; and the Great Fire of London. Pepys was there for it all.
Restoration of Charles II by Stoop
Samuel rushed to Cornhill to watch the cavalcade, taking a room and supplying himself with cake and wine. He was quite the womaniser and had gone to watch the ladies but did comment on the vast crowds cheering and the diamonds woven into rich fabrics.
He was also at the coronation of Charles where he complained that the music was difficult to hear, the ceremony went on too long and he had to leave before the end to go to the toilet.
Pepys knew of the king's mistress Nell Gwyn whom he described as 'pretty, witty Nell'.
by Robert Hooke
The book on microscopic creatures by Hooke was described by the diarist as 'the most ingenious book I have ever read in my life'. Of course it was through rat fleas that the plague began to spread towards the end of 1664 and the book contained an illustration of a flea. Pepys was so worried by the disease that he refused to wear his new wig 'as it may have been made with the hair of plague victims'; he lost his baker, his butcher, friends and checked the death rates weekly. In fact he never contracted the illness.
Great Fire 1666
It was recorded by Pepys that the population were full of trepidation for the year as it contained the number of the beast 666. He wrote that there was a sense that something appalling was going to happen.
The fire began in Pudding Lane in September of that year. Pepys famously buried a parmesan cheese and some wine in his garden.
He also gave advice to the king and his brother in getting the navy mobilised to help fight the conflagration.
However, after the fire was out Samuel Pepys' comments could have been heard today.
On one occasion Pepys was invited to dinner and typical of middle class Londoners, the talk turned to property prices. It was felt that as 100,000 people had been made homeless by the fire, landlords would be able to command much higher rents for their properties.
Some things never change!
I will admit that my diaries are not always as carefully written as they could be, nor do I always write about every incident or piece of world news that springs up, but I do try and focus on my feelings about things that happen rather than just factual details. Like other types of writing it takes time and practice and as such embellishes the quality of my writing of novels. That seems to be working as I have just received a compliment on my latest novel Flight into Secrecy (What happened to Flight 370?) from one of my proof readers.