Samuel Pepys on the Great Plague

Sam Pepys In the Great Plague in London 1665 found  solace,

“Up by 4 o’clock and walked to Greenwich, – – – where something put my last night’s dream into my head, which I think is the best that ever was dreamt, which was that I had my Lady Castlemayne [the King’s mistress, or one of them] in my armes and was admitted to use all the dalliance I desired with her, and then dreamt that this could not be awake, but that it was only a dream; but that since it was a dream, and that I took so much real pleasure in it, what a happy thing it would be if when we are in our graves (as Shakespeere resembles it) we could dream, and dream but such dreams as this, that then we should not need to be so fearful of death, as we are this plague time.” 

Against this backdrop of pestilence, fear and apprehension, however, much of Pepys’s life in 1665 went on as usual. He still worked at the Navy Office, continued his adulterous liaisons, celebrated his cousin’s wedding, and pursued many of his interests. Surprisingly the year brought much opportunity and wealth Pepys’s way and, as the plague subsided, he wrote in his final diary entry for the year, ‘I have never lived so merrily (besides that I never got so much) as I have done this plague-time’.

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1 Comment on Samuel Pepys on the Great Plague

  1. As it was fleas that passed the plague, that’s probably how he escaped. He was fastidious – dapper some said – and one those people who for some bodily reason don’t attract pests. He wrote on one occasion of a night sharing a bed in a tavern with another man and how the fleas bit the stranger but left him alone.

    He also mentions that when out walking infected people who were shut up in their houses (Johnson-style) spat at him through their windows. Crises are like religions in that they bring out the worst in some people and the best in others.