Twitter Ye Not - Great Fire of London
A regular piece for the Daily Mail Weekend magazine about how figures in history might have twittered or tweeted or whatever, had they the chance, inclination and technology.
In the early hours of Sunday 2nd September 1666, the Great Fire of London started at Thomas Farriner's bakery in Pudding Lane. It would burn for four days and destroy more than 13,000 homes, 87 parish churches and the old St Paul's Cathedral. Here, we imagine the Twitter feed from that turbulent time.
On the one side I have shown Samuel Pepys, naval administrator, diarist and Member of Parliament, whose detailed private diary (kept from 1660 until 1669) is one of the most important primary sources for the English Restoration period. It provides a combination of personal revelation and eyewitness accounts of great events, such as the Great Plague, the Second Dutch War and, of course, the Great Fire.
Despite being a happily married man Pepys was not averse to the odd extra-marital affair, although, in fairness, he did always regret it immediately afterwards! When describing sexual trysts his language would shift suddenly to (pidgin) french or spanish - here's a saucy sample (avert your eyes now if easily offended!);-
“…we did send for a pair of old shoes for Mrs. Lowther, and there I did pull the others off and put them on, and did endeavour para tocar su thigh but ella had drawers on, but yo did besar la and tocar sus mamelles, elle being poco shy, but doth speak con mighty kindness to me that she would desire me pour su marido if it were to be done. Here staid a little at Sir W. Penn’s, who was gone to bed, it being about 11 at night, and so I home to bed.”
Opposite Pepys is Nell Gwynne (or Gwyn or Gwynn), actress, whore, theatre orange- and sweetmeat seller (hence the basket of fruit) and long-time mistress of Charles II, aka 'the Merry Monarch', by whom she bore two illegitimate sons. Pepys described her as 'pretty, witty Nell' and she is especially remembered for one particularly apt witticism, which was recounted in the memoirs of the Comte de Gramont, remembering the events of 1681:
Behind the pair the city, all wood and pitch and straw as London then was, burns to the ground.
Nell Gwynn was one day passing through the streets of Oxford, in her coach, when the mob mistaking her for her rival, the Duchess of Portsmouth, commenced hooting and loading her with every opprobrious epithet. Putting her head out of the coach window, "Good people", she said, smiling, "you are mistaken; I am the Protestant whore."