The Restoration gave English literature a new kind of prose, different from that practiced by John Milton, John Donne, Sir Thomas Browne, and other great stylists of the Renaissance. New discoveries in science and mathematics during the late seventeenth century demanded a written discourse that was free of the elaborate flourishes and figurative language that had marked the work of earlier writers; what was required was a prose that was notable for its clarity. The Royal Society required that its members report the proceedings and activities of the society in the plain, utilitarian, natural prose style best suited to the dissemination of scientific truths; the very public nature of the age gave rise to a written language that closely approximated the clear, urbane, elegant conversations that became a hallmark of the Restoration and the eighteenth century.
Like the deliberately public writings of his contemporaries, The Diary of Samuel Pepys is a model of uncluttered, simple, lyrical prose writing. Further, because Pepys wrote in Thomas Shelton’s system of shorthand, he was able to record the events of his life without fear of discovery or exposure, and the result is an autobiographical account notable as a straightforward, unself-conscious, exceedingly detailed narrative that chronicles both the public and the private lives of its writer.
Pepys, like the early epic poets, delighted in catalogs and lists. His Diary delights...
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