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Samuel Pepys : The Unequalled Self

Tomalin, Claire Author

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9780140282344: Samuel Pepys : The Unequalled Self

Samuel Pepys is the astonishing biography by bestselling author Claire Tomalin 2002 WHITBREAD BOOK OF THE YEAR 'Immaculately well done. Tomalin has managed to unearth a wealth of material about the uncharted life of Samuel Pepys' Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday 'Sex, drink, plague, fire, music, marital conflict, the fall of kings, corruption and courage in public life, wars, navies, public execution, incarceration in the Tower: Samuel Pepys's life is full of irresistible material, and Claire Tomalin seizes it with both hands. Fast, vivid, accessible' Hermione Lee, Guardian 'A rich, thoughtful and deeply satisfying account. It takes us behind and beyond the diary - which means that, on finishing it, we can reread the diary with greater pleasure and understanding then ever before' Noel Malcolm, Evening Standard 'In Claire Tomalin, Pepys has found the biographer he deserves. Her perceptive, level-headed book finally restores to the life of the diarist its weight and dignity' Lisa Jardine, New Statesman 'A great achievement and a huge pleasure. A vivid chronicle of contemporary history seen through the all too human preoccupations of this ordinary and extraordinary man' Diana Souhami, Independent From the acclaimed author of Charles Dickens: A Life and The Invisible Woman, this celebrated biography casts new light on the remarkable diaries of Pepys and brings his story vividly to life once more. Claire Tomalin is the award-winning author of eight highly acclaimed biographies, including: The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft; Shelley and His World; Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life; The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens; Mrs Jordan's Profession; Jane Austen: A Life; Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self; Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man and, most recently, Charles Dickens: A Life. A former literary editor of the New Statesman and the Sunday Times, she is married to the playwright and novelist Michael Frayn.

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Samuel Pepys achieved fame as a naval administrator, a friend and colleague of the powerful and learned, a figure of substance. But for nearly ten years he kept a private diary in which he recorded, with unparalleled openness and sensitivity to the turbulent world around him, exactly what it was like to be a young man in Restoration London. This diary lies at the heart of Claire Tomalin's biography. Yet the use she makes of it - and of other hitherto unexamined material - is startlingly fresh and original. Within and beyond the narrative of Pepys' extraordinary career, she explores his inner life - his relations with women, his fears and ambitions, his political shifts, his agonies and his delights.

From the Inside Flap:

The seventeenth century saw a revolution in man?s thought, as Isaac Newton and others began the scientific study of the universe around them. At the same time a shrewd young civil servant in London began to observe, with something of the same dispassionate curiosity, the strange object around which, for him, the universe revolved?himself. For ten years, beginning in 1660, Samuel Pepys secretly kept one of the most remarkable records ever made of a human life.

With astounding candor and perceptiveness he described his ambitions and peculations, his professional successes and failures, his pettinesses and meannesses, his tenderness toward his wife and the irritations and jealousies she provoked, his extramarital longings and fumblings, his coolly critical attitude toward the king he served and his watchful adaptation to the corrupt and treacherous life of the court. Pepys?s diary is a magnificent creation.

But there is more to Samuel Pepys than his diary, as Claire Tomalin makes clear in this profoundly original biography. Buttressing it with less familiar sources and other contemporary material, she is able to illuminate his entire life?as a poor London tailor?s son, as a schoolboy rejoicing at the execution of Charles I, as an aspiring clerk with good connections who transforms himself into a royalist, escorting Charles II to England for the Restoration. Then there is the bureaucrat heroically working against the odds to create a modern navy, finding his way through the dangerous years of political and religious conflict (even, at one point, being charged with treason and jailed), peacefully retiring at last with his books and his music and his friends.

It is Claire Tomalin?s unique skill as a biographer to achieve extraordinary intimacy with her subject, and Pepys is no exception. To the endlessly fascinating question of his relations with women, for example, she brings the same insight and freshness of approach that distinguished such highly praised books as Jane Austen and The Invisible Woman. At the same time, the historical context is never less than brilliantly evoked. The result is exemplary, by far the most revealing?and readable?portrait of the greatest diarist in the English language, a man of unmatched interest and importance.

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