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To write an autobiography is at once little tragedies, common joys the easiest and most difficult of literary the latest Washington despatches and performances : easiest because the nature this morning's breakfast-room wit of autobiography permits the writer to world events and opinion on world indulge in a looseness of structure, a rem- events . . ambitions and dreams, iniscent rambling, a witty garrulousness victories and defeats: in short, life, public, which is denied the more stereotyped domestic, individual—this is the stuff of forms; and most difficult because abso- which autobiographies are made. lute detachment in self-criticism is well- Samuel Pepys, with a greater regard nigh impossible. It is almost inevitable for a pretty woman than for good gramthat one err in judging the value of his mar, has left us in his diary unforgettable own deeds. He cannot fit himself into pictures of the scandalous reign of the the scheme of things with the surety that Merry Monarch. Benjamin Franklin, is possible to an observer. Seen through patriot at home, ambassador abroad, moralhis own eyes, this achievement becomes in- ist at large, delights as well as informs us ordinately important, that casual act loses in his unfinished Autobiography of the its true significance. The writer tends days preceding the American Revoluto vacillate between the opposite poles of tion. unjustified self-importance and undue It is not difficult for us to evaluate self-abasement. At its worst the attempt these personal records of the past; but laboriously to elucidate one's own philoso- how can we justly gauge the importance phy of life or to discover one's own place of such modern works as Theodore Roosein his generation becomes premeditated velt: An Autobiography, The Education posturing.
of Henry Adams, The Americanization If, on the other hand, the author of an of Edward Bok, E. F. Benson's Our autobiography can avoid the worst pitfalls Family Affairs, and Ludwig Lewisohn's that beset his art, he has it in his power to Up Stream: An American Chronicle? enrich the thought of his contemporaries, They do more than assure posterity a betand to preserve for succeeding genera- ter understanding of the late nineteenth tions invaluable impressions of the time in and the early twentieth century; they are which he lives. He may run the whole living testimony that human interest is gamut of thought, emotion, and circum- not primarily in theories of government, stance. Conversations, interviews, solil- | codes of morality, or institutions of sooquies
hot debate and cold ciety, but first and always in individuals reasoning . great catastrophes, I themselves.
THE LONDON FIRE
Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a minor statesman of the reign of Charles II, but on the strength of a naïve diary be ranks among the important figures of literature. However, he was no conscious literary artist: he was merely confiding in his diary, in a cipher which he thought perfectly safe, the things that one does not relate publicly. The diary, which was not deciphered until early in the nineteenth century (1822), furnishes an accurate picture of the manners and conditions of the Restoration.
SEPT. 2d, 1666 (Lord's day.) Some ell's house, as far as the Old Swan, alof our maids sitting up late last night to ready burned that way, and the fire runget things ready against our feast to-day, ning further, that, in a very little time, it Jane called us up about three in the got as far as the Steele-yard, while I was morning, to tell us of a great fire they there. Everybody endeavouring to resaw in the City. So I rose and slipped move their goods, and Ainging into the on my night-gown, and went to her win- river, or bringing them into lighters that dow; and thought it to be on the back- lay off; poor people staying in their houses side of Marke-lane at the farthest; but, as long as till the very fire touched them, being unused to such fires as followed, I and then, running into boats, or clamberthought it far enough off; and so went to ing from one pair of stairs, by the waterbed again, and to sleep. About seven side, to another. And, among other rose again to dress myself, and there things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were looked out at the window, and saw the loth to leave their houses, but hovered fire not so much as it was, and further about the windows and balconys, till off. So to my closet to set things to they burned their wings and fell down. rights, after yesterday's cleaning. By Having staid, and in an hour's time seen and by Jane comes and tells me that she the fire rage every way; and nobody, to hears that about 300 houses have been my sight, endeavouring to quench it, but burned down to-night by the fire we to remove their goods, and leave all to saw, and that it is now burning down the fire; and having seen it get as far as all Fish Street, by London Bridge. So the Steele-yard, and the wind mighty I made myself ready presently, and high, and driving it into the City: and walked to the Tower; and there got up everything, after so long a drought, provupon one of the high places, Sir J. Rob- ing combustible, even the very stones of inson's little son going up with me; and churches; and, among other things, the there I did see the houses at that end of poor steeple by which pretty Mrs. the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great | lives, and whereof my old schoolfellow fire on this and the other side the end of Elborough is parson, taken fire in the very the bridge; which, among other people, top, and there burned till it fell down; Í did trouble me for poor little Michell to White Hall, with a gentleman with and our Sarah on the bridge. So down me, who desired to go off from the with my heart full of trouble, to the Tower, to see the fire, in my boat; and Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me there up to the King's closet in the that it begun this morning in the King's Chapel, where people come about me, and baker's house in Pudding-lane, and that I did give them an account dismayed it hath burned down St. Magnus's them all, and word was carried into the Church and most part of Fish Street al. King. So I was called for, and did tell ready. So I down to the water-side. and the King and Duke of York what I saw; there got a boat, and through bridge, and and, that unless his Majesty did comthere saw a lamentable fire. Poor Mich- | mand houses to be pulled down, nothing could stop the fire. They seemed much But Mr. Moone's design and mine, which troubled, and the King commanded me to was to look over my closet, and please him go to my Lord Mayor from him, and with the sight thereof, which he hath command him to spare no houses, but to long desired, was wholly disappointed; pull down before the fire every way. The for we were in great trouble and disDuke of York bid me tell him, that if he turbance at this fire, not knowing what would have any more soldiers, he shall; to think of it. However, we had an exand so did my Lord Arlington after-traordinary good dinner, and as merry as wards, as a great secret. Here meeting at this time we could be. While at dinwith Captain Cocke, I in his coach, which ner, Mrs. Batelier come to enquire after he lent me, and Creed with me to Paul's; Mr. Woolfe and Stanes, who, it seems, and there walked along Watling Street, are related to them, whose houses in Fish as well as I could, every creature coming Street are all burned, and they in a sad away loaden with goods to save, and, condition. She would not stay in the here and there, sick people carried away fright. Soon as dined, I and Moone in beds. Extraordinary good goods car- away, and walked through the City, the ried in carts and on backs. At last met streets full of nothing but people; and my Lord Mayor in Canning Street, like horses and carts loaden with goods, ready a man spent, with a hankercher about his
to run over one another, and removing neck. To the King's message, he cried goods from one burned house to another. like a fainting woman, "Lord! what can They now reinoving out of Canning I do? I am spent: people will not obey Street, which received goods in the morn
I have been pulling down houses;ing, into Lumbard Street, and further : but the fire overtakes us faster than we and among others, I now saw my little can do it.” That he needed no more goldsmith Stokes receiving some friend's soldiers; and that, for himself, he must goods, whose house itself was burned the go and refresh himself, having been up day after. We parted at Paul's; he all night. So he left me, and I him, and home, and I to Paul's Wharf, where I walked home: seeing people all almost dis- had appointed a boat to attend me, and tracted, and no manner of means used to took in Mr. Carcasse and his brother, quench the fire. The houses, too, so whom I met in the street, and carried very thick thereabouts, and full of mat- them below and above bridge, too.
And ter for burning, as pitch and tar, in again to see the fire, which was now got Thames Street; and warehouses of oyle, further, both below and above, and no and wines, and brandy, and other things. | likelihood of stopping it. Met with the Here I saw Mr. Isaac Houblon, the King and Duke of York in their barge, handsome man, prettily dressed and dirty and with them to Queenhithe, and there at his door at Dowgate, receiving some of called Sir Richard Browne to them. Their his brothers' things, whose houses were order was only to pull down houses apace, on fire; and, as he says, have been re- and so below bridge at the waterside; moved twice already; and he doubts, as but little was or could be done, the fire it soon proved, that they must be, in a coming upon them so fast. Good hopes little time, removed from his house also, there was of stopping it at the Three which was a sad consideration. And to see Cranes above, and at Buttulph's Wharf the churches all filling with goods by peo- below bridge, if care be used; but the ple who themselves should have been qui- wind carries it into the City, so as we etly there at this time. By this time, it was know not, by the water-side, what it do about twelve o'clock; and so home, and there. River full of lighters and boats there find my guests, who were Mr. | taking in goods, and good goods swimWood and his wife Barbary Shelden, and ming in the water; and only I observed also Mr. Moone: she mighty fine, and that hardly one lighter or boat in three her husband, for aught I see, a likely man. I that had the goods of a house in, but
ere was a pair of Virginall's' in it.
warm weather, carry much of my goods aving seen as much as I could now, I into the garden; and Mr. Hater and I vay to White Hall by appointment, and did remove my money and iron chests into ere walked to St. James's Park; and my cellar, as thinking that the safest ere met my wife, and Creed, and Wood, place. And got my bags of gold into my id his wife, and walked to my boat; and office, ready to carry away, and my chief lere upon the water again, and to the papers of accounts also there, and my talre up and down, it still encreasing, and lies into a box by themselves. So great le wind great. So near the fire as we was our fear, that Sir W. Batten hath puld for smoke; and all
smoke; and all over the carts come out of the country to fetch Chames, with one's faces in the wind, away his goods this night. We did put ou were almost burned with a shower Mr. Hater, poor man! to bed a little; f fire-drops. This is very true: so as but he got but very little rest, so much ouses were burned by these drops and noise being in my house, taking down of akes of fire, three or four, nay, five or six goods. louses, one from another. When we 3d. About four o'clock in the mornould endure no more upon the water, we ing, my Lady Batten sent me a cart to o a little ale-house on the Bank side, carry away all my money, and plate, and wer against the Three Cranes, and there best things, to Sir W. Rider's, at Bednall taid till it was dark almost, and saw the Greene, which I did, riding myself in my ire grow; and, as it grew darker, ap- nightgown, in the cart; and, Lord! to peared more and more; and in corners see how the streets and the highways are ind upon steeples, and between churches crowded with people running and riding, and houses, as far as we could see up the and getting of carts at any rate to fetch hill of the City, in a most horrid, mali- away things. I find Sir W. Rider tired cious, bloody flame, not like the fine with being called up all night, and reflame of an ordinary fire. Barbary and ceiving things from several friends. His her husband away before us. We staid house full of goods, and much of Sir W. till, it being darkish, we saw the fire as Batten's and Sir W. Pen's. I am eased at only one entire arch of fire from this to my heart to have my treasure so well sethe other side the bridge, and in a bow up cured. Then home, and with much ado to the hill for an arch of above a mile long: find a way, nor any sleep all this night to it made me weep to see it. The churches, me nor my poor wife. But then all this the houses, and all on fire, and flaming at day she and I and all my people laboring once; and a horrid noise the flames made, to get away the rest of our things, and and the cracking of houses at their ruine. did get Mr. Tooker to get me a lighter to So home with a sad heart, and there find take them in, and we did carry them, every body discoursing and lamenting myself some, over Tower Hill, which the fire; and poor Tom Hater come with was by this time full of people's goods, some few of his goods saved out of his bringing their goods thither; and down house, which was burned upon Fish to the lighter, which lay at the next quay, Street Hill. I invited him to lie at my above the Tower Dock. And here was house, and did receive his goods; but my neighbour's wife, Mrs. — with was deceived in his lying there, the news her pretty child, and some few of her coming every moment of the growth of things, which I did willingly give way to the fire, so as we were forced to begin be saved with mine: but there was no to pack up our own goods, and prepare passing with any thing through the postfor their removal; and did by moonshine, ern, the crowd was so great. The Duke it being brave, dry, and moonshine and of York come this day by the office, and 1 Plural in form with singular meaning.
spoke to us, and did ride with his guard A small rectangular spinet without legs, one
up and down the City to keep all quiet, of the precursors of the piano.
he being now General, and having the
care of all. This day, Mercer being not none whereof yet appeared, and to write at home, but against her mistress's order to Sir W. Coventry to have the Duke of gone to her mother's, and my wife going York's permission to pull down houses, thither to speak with W. Hewer, met rather than lose this office, which would her there, and was angry; and her mother much hinder the King's business. So saying that she was not a 'prentice girl, Sir W. Pen went down this night, in to ask leave every time she goes abroad, order to the sending them up to-morrow my wife with good reason was angry; morning; and I wrote to Sir W. Cor and when she come home, did bid her be-entry about the business, but received no gone again. And so she went away, which answer. This night, Mrs. Turner, who, troubled me, but yet less than it would, poor woman, was removing her goods all because of the condition we are in, in fear this day, good goods, into the garden. of coming in a little time to being less and knows not how to dispose of them, able to keep one in her quality. At and her husband supped with my wife night, lay down a little upon a quilt of and me at night, in the office, upon a W. Hewer's in the office, all my own shoulder of mutton from the cook's withthings being packed up or gone; and, out any napkin, or any thing, in a sad after me, my poor wife did the like, we manner, but were merry. Only now and having fed upon the remains of yester-then, walking into the garden, saw how day's dinner, having no fire nor dishes, horridly the sky looks, all on a fire in the nor any opportunity of dressing any thing. night, was enough to put us out of our
4th. Up by break of day, to get away wits; and, indeed, it was extremely dreadthe remainder of my things; which I did ful, for it looks just as if it was at us, by a lighter at the Iron gate: and my and the whole heaven on fire. I after hands so full, that it was the afternoon supper walked in the dark down to before we could get them all away. Sir Tower Street, and there saw it all on fire. W. Pen and I to the Tower Street, and at the Trinity House on that side, and there met the fire burning, three or four the Dolphin Tavern on this side, which doors beyond Mr. Howell's, whose goods, was very near us; and the fire with expoor man, his trayes, and dishes, shov- traordinary vehemence. Now begins the ells, &c., were Alung all along Tower practice of blowing up of houses in Street in the kennels, and people work- Tower Street, those next the Tower, ing therewith from one end to the other: which at first did frighten people more the fire coming on in that narrow street, than any thing; but it stopped the fire on both sides, with infinite fury. Sir W. where it was done, it bringing down the Batten not knowing how to remove his houses to the ground in the same places wine, did dig a pit in the garden, and laid they stood, and then it was easy to quench it in there, and I took the opportunity of what little fire was in it, though it laying all the papers of my office that I kindled nothing almost. W. Hewer this could not otherwise dispose of. And day went to see how his mother did and, in the evening Sir W. Pen and I did dig comes late home, telling us how he hath another, and put our wine in it; and I been forced to remove her to Islington, my parmazan cheese, as well as my wine her house in Pye Corner being burned; so and some other things. The Duke of that the fire is got so far that way, and York was at the office this day, at Sir W. to the Old Bayly, and was running down Pen's; but I happened not to be within. to Fleet Street; and Paul's is burned, This afternoon, sitting melancholy with and all Cheapside. I wrote to my father Sir W. Pen in our garden, and thinking this night, but the post-house being of the certain burning of this office, with burned, the letter could not go. out extraordinary means, I did propose
Pepys began his public career as Clerk for the sending up of all our workmen
of the Acts in the Navy office. Eventually he from the Woolwich and Deptford yards, was appointed Secretary to the Admiralty.