What is significant about the sentence structure in The Diary of Samuel Pepys?
Samuel Pepys' most interesting aspect of sentence structure is his use of elliptical elements (phrases with omitted words that the reader's mind should fill in by itself). Samuel Pepys was writing for himself, not for publicity; therefore, he had no qualms about using an unusual grammatical form such as the elliptical element. There are many examples in the entries labeled "The Plague" and "The Fire of London." For instance, Pepys writes, "By this time it was about twelve o'clock; and so home." Here, Pepys obviously omits I went. In one of the entries about the fire, Pepys says, "Little was or could be done, the fire coming upon them so fast." Here any reader would have thought that "the fire [was] coming" so fast. I think of Samuel Pepys use of elliptical elements as a personal form of shorthand.
It's a diary, a journal, kept by one man. He filled it with events from his life and the life around him, which was 1660s England, and it gives us a wonderful insight into London at this time. Not only does he write about his personal affairs, but he shows us how London was durning the reign of Charles II (we call it the Restoration period), with colourful glimpses into events like the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London.
"Pepys began his Diary on New Year’s Day 1660. He was 26, had been married for five tempestuous years, and had barely £25 to his name. Quite why he decided to keep a diary is a mystery. Certainly he was living in turbulent times, with Cromwell dead and the Commonwealth on the point of collapse. Had he done no more than record the events of the dramatic decade that followed, his Diary would still be of inestimable historical importance.
In Samuel Pepys’s Diary great events are part of an everyday existence encompassing every aspect of his life: his career, his friendships, his pleasures, his pains, and above all his marriage: there is no better account of the struggles, joys and woes of the married state and no better reminder, either, that in three hundred years things have not much changed. Others have chronicled great events, but no one has chronicled quite so candidly, dispassionately and perceptively the vicissitudes of one human life."