It was on Friday 31st May 1669 that Samuel Pepys wrote the final entry in his Diary. His nine-and-a-half-year diary keeping was, he said, at an end because his eyes were deteriorating. His closing words were:-
‘And so I betake to that course, which is almost as much as to see myself go into my grave – for which, and all the discomforts that will accompany my being blind, the good God prepare me!’
Pepys wrote in a form of shorthand that was not deciphered until 1825. His writing had begun when he was a struggling young civil servant and covered the beginnings of his rise to wealth and influence in Restoration England. His writing is praised not just as a priceless historical document but for a range of character, anecdote and detail that is Dickensian in scope, and just as readable. We learn the devices and dirty linen of those at court; his running from the Black Death and being singed by the Great Fire. He records those who wore the latest fashion to that popular play; of the best pub for anchovies or assignations; of the small, perfect things only a born storyteller would notice – for instance he writes: “I staid (sic) up till the bell-man came by with his bell just under my window as I was writing this very line, and cried, ‘Past one of the clock, and a cold, and frosty, windy morning.'”
Pepys stopped his diary on 31st May 1669, and Mrs. Pepys died of fever later that year, aged just twenty-nine. Pepys lived for another quarter-century, but he did not remarry.
From Pepys’s last, May 31st, entry we read:
And thus ends all that I doubt I shall ever be able to do with my own eyes in the keeping of my journall, I being not able to do it any longer…. I must forbear; and therefore resolve from this time forward to have it kept by my people in longhand, and must therefore be contented to set down no more then is fit for them and all the world to know; or if there be anything … I must endeavor to keep a margin in my book open, to add here and there a note in short-hand with my own hand. And so I betake myself to that course which [is] almost as much as to see myself go into my grave — for which, and all the discomforts that will accompany my being blind, the good God prepare me.