Samuel Pepys (1633–1703)
Samuel Pepys, naval administrator and Member of Parliament, is best known today for the personal diary he kept from 1 January 1660 to 31 May 1669.
Dictionary of National Biography (1885–1900)
PEPYS, SAMUEL (1633–1703), diarist, was born 23 Feb. 1632–3. His birthplace was either London or (according to Knight, Life of Colet, App.) Brampton, Huntingdonshire. His father, John Pepys, born in 1601, belonged to a family long settled at Cottenham in Cambridgeshire. He was son of Thomas Pepys, whose sister Paulina married Sir Sidney Montagu, and became the mother of Edward Montagu (1625–1672), afterwards first Earl of Sandwich [q. v.] John Pepys became a tailor in London, and was concerned in some trade with Holland. As in August 1661 he had only 45l. in money, and debts to about the same amount, he cannot have been very prosperous. In that year he retired to a small property, worth about 80l. a year, at Brampton, left to him by his elder brother, Robert. At this time Samuel, Thomas (1634–1669), John (1641–1677), and Paulina (1640–1680) were the only surviving children out of eleven. His wife died in 1667, and he in 1680.
References in the ‘Diary’ show that Samuel Pepys (26 Aug. 1664) was boarded out as a child at Hackney and Kingsland. He was afterwards at school (15 March 1639–1640) at Huntingdon, and finally a scholar of St. Paul's School in London. On the day of the king's execution he observed that if he preached on the occasion his text should be, ‘The memory of the wicked shall rot.’ He was much relieved on 1 Nov. 1660 to find that an old schoolfellow, who remembered that Pepys was a ‘great roundhead,’ had not heard this particular remark. On 21 June 1650 Pepys was admitted at Trinity Hall, Cambridge (Academy for 1893, i. 372), and on 5 March 1650–1 Pepys migrated as a sizar to Magdalene College, Cambridge. He probably changed with a view to a scholarship, as he was elected on the Spendluffe foundation on 3 April 1651, and on 4 Oct. 1653 he was elected to a scholarship founded by John Smith. On 21 Oct. 1653 he was ‘solemnly admonished’ with a companion for having been ‘scandalously overserved with drink’ on the previous night. Pepys, however, became the friend of several industrious fellow-students, such as Joseph Hill [q. v.], Hezekiah Burton [q. v.], and Richard Cumberland (1631–1718) [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Peterborough. He wished afterwards (18 March 1667) that his sister Paulina would marry Cumberland, as a ‘man of reading and parts.’ His later history shows that he retained a warm feeling for his college. At college he wrote a romance called ‘Love a Cheate,’ but tore it up on 31 Jan. 1663–4.
Pepys graduated as B.A. in 1653, and became M.A. on 26 June 1660. On 1 Dec. 1655, according to the register of St. Margaret's, Westminster, he married Elizabeth St. Michel—although both he and his wife afterwards believed their wedding-day to have been 10 Oct.—a pretty girl of fifteen, having been born, according to her epitaph, on 23 Oct. 1640. She was daughter of Alexandre St. Michel, a Huguenot, who came to England with Henrietta Maria on her marriage with Charles I. St. Michel had been disinherited by his father on account of his religion, and was dismissed by the queen for ‘striking a friar’ in the course of argument. He married a widow who was daughter of Sir Francis Kingsmill, and got into difficulties in the attempt to recover his property in France. His daughter when about twelve was shut up in a convent at Paris, but was afterwards recovered by a ‘stratagem.’ In later years St. Michel became a ‘projector;’ he obtained patents for curing smoky chimneys and for cleaning muddy ponds. He had also plans for raising submerged ships, and had discovered ‘King Solomon's gold and silver mines.’ Naturally, he and his wife had to live upon 4s. a week from the French church (28 March 1667) (Smith, Life of Pepys, i. 146–53; Wheatley, Samuel Pepys, 241–50).
In 1656 Pepys entered the family of his father's first cousin, Sir Edward Montagu, who, as Mr. Wheatley suggests, may perhaps have enabled him to go to college. Pepys was employed as a kind of factotum in matters of business during Montagu's absences from London. On 26 March 1658 he underwent a successful operation for the stone, and commemorated the day ever afterwards. In June 1659 Sir Edward Montagu took him on the expedition to the Sound, but did not let him into the secret of the negotiations with Charles II. On his return he became clerk in the office of (Sir) George Downing (1623?–1684) [q. v.], one of the tellers of the exchequer ; and when he began his 'Diary' (1 Jan. 1659–60) was living in Axe Yard, Westminster, with his wife and one maid. His salary was 50l. a year, but he was erroneously 'esteemed rich.' On 19 Jan. Downing obtained his appointment to be a clerk of the council, in order, as Pepys thought, to escape paying his salary himself. In March Pepys was made secretary to Sir Edward Montagu, upon his taking command of the fleet which brought Charles II to England. Pepys was now an ardent loyalist, took part in all the ceremonials with infinite satisfaction, heard Charles tell the story ot his escape from Worcester, was civilly treated by the Duke of York, and got a share of the presents. Montagu showed much confidence in him, and on 23 June promised him appointment as 'clerk of the acts.'
The office of 'clerk of the king's ships,' or of the 'acts of the navy' (Wheatley Samuel Pepys, p. 279, &c.), is mentioned in the time of Edward IV. The clerk was a member of the 'navy board' constituted by Henry VIII ; and in Pepys's patent, dated 13 July 1660, he was entitled to the ancient fee of 33l. 6s. 8d. per annum. Pepys's salary, however, was fixed at 350l. (7 July 1660). The board included a treasurer, controller, surveyor, and four commissioners; and Pepys was not merely secretary, but had equal authority with other members of the board. The clerkship of the acts had been abolished under the Commonwealth, and a new set of regulations was issued by the Duke of York, as lord high admiral, in January 1661–2.
Pepys had some difficulty in securing the place. Monck brought forward a candidate of his own ; and Thomas Barlow, who had been clerk of the acts under Charles I, was still alive, and claimed the office. Pepys finally agreed to give Barlow 100l. a year, having observed that he was an 'old, consumptive man' (17 July 1660). Barlow lived till 1665, when Pepys had some trouble to reconcile his regret for the death of a 'worthy, honest man' with his thankfulness to God for a saving of 100l. a year (9 Feb. 1664–5). On 6 Aug. 1660 he had an offer of 1,000l. for his place, which 'made his mouth water,' but which he judiciously declined. On 23 July he also became a clerk of the privy seal by Montagu's influence. He did not expect much from this, but considered that it would be a convenient refuge if he lost his other post. On 10 Aug. 1660 he found that he was making about 3l. a day by it. As clerk of the acts Pepys had a house in the navy office, between Crutched Friars and Seething Lane (demolished after the removal of the office to Somerset House). He feared that the other officials might 'shuflle him out' of his lodgings, but was soon settled there, and on 17 Sept. got rid of his house in Axe Yard. He was sworn in as justice of the peace on 24 Sept., and 'mightily pleased,' though 'wholly ignorant' of the duties of his new position.
On 15 Feb. 1661–2 Pepys was sworn in as younger brother of the Trinity House. In the following August he was put on the Tangier commission, his colleague (Sir) William Coventry [q. v.] observing at the time that he was 'the life of the navy office' (20 Sept. 1662). On 10 March 1663–4 he was appointed an assistant of the 'corporation of the royal fishing,' of which the Duke of York was governor. The accounts of the Tangier commission having got into disorder, he was appointed, through the favour of the Duke of York, to succeed Pavy as treasurer (20 March 1664–5). No 'harsh words passed,' which was 'a good fortune beyond all imagination.' On the 27th of the following October he was appointed surveyor-general of the victualling office, in accordance with suggestions made by himself. An elaborate letter of 1 Jan. 1665–6, in which he describes his plan for regulating the pursers, is in the Harleian MSS. 'A purser,' he says, 'would not have twice what he got unless he cheated.' Pepys had apparently begun with no more knowledge of the navy or accounts than he had of the duties of a justice of the peace. He had engaged a mathematical tutor in July 1662, when his first business was to learn the multiplication table. This, however, was his only trouble in arithmetic. He applied vigorously to work, and took great trouble to acquire a thorough knowledge of all the details of his office. He was often at his office at four in the morning, looked into the various abuses, and became a thorough master of his business. He found time to visit the theatres, and to indulge in a good deal of conviviality, not infrequently becoming 'fuddled,' incurring bad headaches, and making vows of abstinence, which were sometimes hard to keep. He allowed himself to drink hippocras on one occasion (29 Oct. 1663) because it was not wine — only a 'compound' including sugar and spice as well as wine. He probably made money by means which would now be considered as corrupt, but which were then part of the recognised perquisites of officials. But, in spite of weaknesses, revealed with singular clearness, Pepys was a very energetic official ; and not only a man of integrity himself, but a zealous reformer of abuses. He obtained the confidence of the Duke of York and his colleague, Sir W. Coventry. During the war with Holland (declared 6 Feb. 1665) Pepys worked hard to supply the requirements of the fleet. Monck called him, he says (24 April 1665), the 'right hand of the navy.' He stayed at work during the plague, saying to Coventry : 'You took your turn of the sword ; I must not grudge to take mine of the pestilence' (Diaries, i. xxviii.) During the fire of London (September 1666) he suggested that Sir W. Penn should fetch workmen from the dockyard to pull down houses, and by their help the fire was stopped before reaching the navy office. He buried his money at the house of Sir W. Rider at Bethnal Green, and his 'wine and Parmesan cheese' in a garden. He afterwards sent the money to his father's house at Brampton, whither he went to dig it up in the following October (1667). Meanwhile the discontent with the naval management, increased by the Dutch fleet in the Medway, led to the appointment of a parliamentary committee (October 1667). Pepys gave evidence before them, but was much worried for some time. The officials finally obtained leave to defend themselves before the House of Commons. Pepys had to get up the evidence. On 5 March 1667–8, after taking half a pint of mulled sack and a dram of brandy, Pepys went to the house and made a speech from twelve till past three. Many members went out to dinner and came back half drunk during the oration. It was, however, signally successful. Coventry told him that he ought to be speaker. The solicitor-general declared that he was the best speaker in England. Mr. G. Montagu kissed him, and called him Cicero ; his fellow officers were overjoyed, and the house appears to have been convinced of their innocence. The proposed impeachments were dropped, and Pepys began to think of becoming a member of parliament.
Pepys had previously written (17 Nov. 1666) to the Duke of York upon the abuses in the navy. He now prepared an elaborate document, which was adopted by the duke as his own, and contained 'reflections' upon the several members of the board (28 Aug. 1668). Pepys was naturally suspected by his colleagues, but joined them in sending answers to the 'reflections.' He then drew up a reply, which was adopted by the duke (25 Nov. 1688), and contains a 'stinging reprimand' to the officials (see Wheatley, Samuel Pepys, pp. 139–42. Both letters are in the British Museum). Pepys was now in high favour with the Duke of York, and expected that his post would be henceforth an office 'of ease, and not slavery, as it hath for so many years been' (6 Dec. 1668). The 'Diary' shows that he had a very low opinion of all his colleagues, except Coventry, 'the man of all the world that he was resolved to preserve an interest in ' (27 Nov. 1668).
He had now become the most important of the naval officials. His pecuniary position had been steadily improving. When he first sailed with Montagu he was 'not clearly worth 25l.' (3 June 1660) ; he came back with 100l. At the end of 1660 he had 300l., and 900l. at the end of 1663. On 13 Aug. 1665 he had 2,164l., besides Brampton ; and by the end of that year his gains from prizes and his new employments had raised his estate to 4,400l. At the end of 1666 he had 6,200l., after which he ceases to give these details. At the end of 1668, however, he resolved to buy a coach ; and in December set it up with a pair of black horses, of which he was 'mighty proud.' He thought himself entitled to it, although he might 'contract envy,' and was, in fact, accused in a contemporary pamphlet of 'presumption in the highest degree.' He was, however, troubled by a failure of eyesight, first mentioned in January 1663–4. At last, after much anxiety, he found that writing was so hurtful that he gave up his 'Diary' on 31 May 1669. To do so, he says, is 'almost as much as to see himself go into his grave.'
He obtained leave of absence, and made a trip to France and Holland, during which he collected information about the foreign navies. On his return his wife sickened of a fever and died, at the age of twenty-nine, on 10 Nov. 1669. She was buried at St. Olave's Church, Hart Street, where Pepys erected a monument to her memory. He had been 'frighted' in the previous year by her confession of a catholic inclination, though he was ‘mightily pleased’ by her consenting to go to church with him (29 Nov. and 6 Dec. 1668). Probably she had received some impressions from her life in the convent, although Pepys obtained afterwards a letter from her brother denying that she had ‘the least thoughts of popery’ (Smith, i. 147). The Duke of York was endeavouring at this time to obtain Pepys's election to a seat vacated at Aldborough, Suffolk, by the death of Sir Robert Brooke. Pepys was prevented by his wife's last illness from attending at the election; and, in spite of the influence of the duke and Lord Henry Howard (afterwards sixth Duke of Norfolk), the choice fell upon John Bruce. In November 1670 Pepys was nearly fighting a duel with the Swedish resident, Leyenbergh, who, in 1671, married the widow of Sir William Batten [q. v.], one of Pepys's colleagues. Batten owed him money, and the quarrel, as Lord Braybrooke suggests, may have arisen in some way out of this. The meeting, however, was stopped by the king's orders.
Pepys's patron, Montagu, who had become first Earl of Sandwich, was killed in action on 28 May 1672. Pepys had been a serviceable client; he had remonstrated very sensibly with Lord Sandwich for neglecting his duties in consequence of a connection with a mistress (9 Sept. and 18 Nov. 1663), and in 1665 he was employed in bringing about the marriage between Sandwich's daughter, Lady Jemima, and Philip, son of the treasurer of the navy, Sir George Carteret [q. v.] Pepys, however, was now independent. In the summer of 1673 the Duke of York resigned his posts upon the passage of the Test Act. The admiralty was thereupon put into commission, and Pepys was appointed, about June 1673, ‘secretary for the affairs of the navy.’ He obtained the appointment to his old office of his clerk, Thomas Hayter, and his brother, John Pepys. John had been at St. Paul's School, and was scholar of Christ's College, Cambridge, and in 1670 Pepys had obtained his appointment to be clerk of the Trinity House. He died unmarried in 1677, owing 300l. to the Trinity House, which Pepys had to pay. The elevation to the peerage of Sir Robert Paxton caused a vacancy for Castle Rising. The Duke of York had, in 1672, obtained a promise from Howard to support Pepys. As Howard had given other promises to the king and the Duchess of Cleveland there was some difficulty; but Pepys was ultimately elected on 4 Nov. 1673. On a petition from his opponent the election was pronounced to be void by the committee of privileges, but as the house did not come to a vote he was permitted to retain his seat. He was afterwards accused of having an altar with a crucifix in his house, and being ‘a papist and popishly inclined.’ Pepys appears to have had either a crucifix or a picture of the crucifixion (Diary, 20 July, 2 Aug., 3 Nov. 1666), but he entirely denied the charge. It rested upon vague statements by Lord Shaftesbury and Sir John Banks; but as Shaftesbury could remember nothing distinctly, and Banks denied having said anything, the charge was dropped. In 1676 Pepys was master of the Trinity House and in 1677 master of the Clothworkers' Company, to whom he presented a silver cup, still preserved. He appears from a reference in the debates (Parl. Hist. iv. 976–6) to have been regarded as assuming dictatorial authority in naval matters. In February 1678–9 Pepys was receiving applications from Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight boroughs, and Harwich to become member. He chose to stand for Harwich, and sat as its representative in the Short parliament of 1679. He was now the object of an attack which was made dangerous by the excitement of the ‘popish plot’ (‘Pepys and the Popish Plots,’ Hist. Rev. p. 492). His intimacy with the Duke of York was likely to rouse suspicions. His clerk, Samuel Atkins, had been accused of being accessory to the murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey [q. v.], but was acquitted on 8 Feb. 1678–9. Atkins had been employed by the Duke of York to collect evidence against one John Scott, who was proved guilty of fraud. Scott now accused Pepys and his colleague, Sir Anthony Deane, of sending in 1675 information about the navy to the French government, and of conspiring to extirpate the protestant religion. They were committed to the Tower under the speaker's warrant on 22 May 1679, and Hayter succeeded to Pepys's office at the admiralty. Pepys was put to great expense in preparing a defence. He had to employ his brother-in-law, St. Michel, to collect evidence. A music-master, Morelli, who had lived with him, was supposed to be a priest in disguise, and Pepys had to appeal to him to disprove the report (Smith, i. 192, 198). The trial was postponed several times, though the prisoners were ultimately allowed to find security for 30,000l. At length, on 12 Feb. 1679–80, they applied for a discharge, when the attorney-general consented, Scott having refused to support his original deposition. John James, who had been a butler to Pepys, died in March 1680, and confessed that he had trumped up the charge (ib. i. 216, 271). William Harbord, M.P. for Thetford, was an enemy of Pepys, and, according to his belief, at the bottom of the whole proceeding (ib. i. 205); and James, in his confession, said that Harbord had bribed him. Scott killed a coachman in 1682 and had to fly the country, though he returned in 1696. He appears to have been a thorough scoundrel and a supporter of Oates (see Hewer to Pepys, 13 May 1682, and E. Wright to Pepys, 12 Nov. 1696).
Pepys was out of office for a time, but still in communication with the king and the duke. In October 1680 he was at Newmarket with Charles, and took down the story of his escape from Worcester (first published by Lord Hailes in 1766). In 1681 he was invited by his friends to apply for the provostship of King's College, Cambridge. He expresses some diffidence from his want of ‘academic knowledge,’ but was attracted by the retirement which would give leisure for putting together his collections upon the history of the navy. He said that he would give up the whole of the first year's income and half the income of succeeding years to the college. The scheme, however, dropped. In 1682 he accompanied the Duke of York to Scotland. He ‘narrowly escaped’ the shipwreck, in which the duke himself and the future Duke of Marlborough were nearly lost, by sailing in a different ship. He was present at two councils in Edinburgh, and visited Glasgow. In August 1683 George Legge, first lord Dartmouth [q. v.], was ordered to sail to Tangier to demolish the works and bring home the garrison. Pepys was appointed to accompany him, and wrote a journal (published in Smith, vol. i.), which is of considerable value. It shows Pepys's shrewdness; though the peculiarities which give interest to his earlier diaries had disappeared, whether because he had become more cautious or because he was really more demure. Charles II now became himself lord high admiral. Pepys was appointed secretary of the admiralty, with a salary of 500l. a year (patent dated 10 June 1686). Pepys was now at the height of consideration. He was chosen president of the Royal Society in November 1684 (having been elected a fellow on 15 Feb. 1664–5), and he was again president in the following year. He afterwards received the society at his house in York Buildings on Saturday evenings, and Evelyn regrets the discontinuance of these meetings caused by the infirmity of the host. He had settled in this house, which was upon the site of York House, demolished in 1672, soon after leaving the navy office. Pepys was in the procession at the coronation of James II as one of the barons of the Cinque ports; and was again named first master of the Trinity House in 1685, upon its receipt of a new charter. Evelyn attended a great dinner upon the occasion (20 July). On the election of parliament in May 1685 Pepys was returned for Harwich and for Sandwich, and elected to serve for Harwich. He was in correspondence with Dartmouth, who commanded the fleet intended to meet William's expedition. James II, just before his flight, was sitting to Kneller for a portrait intended for Pepys; and Pepys acted as secretary until 20 Feb. 1688–9. On 9 March following he was directed to hand over his papers to Phineas Bowles, who succeeded him. On 25 June 1689 he was committed to the Gatehouse on a charge of giving information to the French, but allowed to return to his house, on the plea of ill-health, in July. On 15 Oct. 1690 he asked some friends who had bailed him to ‘eat a piece of mutton with him to-morrow,’ in celebration of his being ‘once again a free man in every respect.’
After his retirement Pepys lived chiefly at Clapham with William Hewer, who had been his clerk. He kept up a correspondence with many distinguished people, including Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Christopher Wren, Evelyn, and Sir Hans Sloane. Dryden imitated Chaucer's ‘Good Parson’ at his request. He took an interest in Christ's Hospital, of which he was a governor. He sent Kneller to Oxford in 1701 to paint a portrait of John Wallis, and presented it to the university in 1702, for which he was elaborately thanked. He died at Clapham on 26 May 1703, when a large stone was found in his kidney. He received the sacrament in his last illness from George Hickes, the nonjuror, who was much edified by his behaviour. He was buried at St. Olave's, Hart Street, by the side of his wife, on 5 June. Rings and mourning were distributed to a large number of persons. He left his fortune to his nephew, John Jackson, son of his sister Paulina. He is at present represented by the family of Pepys Cockerell, one of Jackson's daughters having married John Cockerell of Bishop's Hall, Somerset. At the time of Pepys's death a sum of 28,000l. was due to him from the crown, which was never paid. Pepys left his library to Jackson for his life. It was to go upon his death to some college, Magdalene by preference, and to be kept separate, with various restrictions as to its use. Upon Jackson's death in 1726 it was accordingly given to Magdalene, where it is placed in a building to which Pepys had subscribed. Pepys had taken great pains in selecting and arranging his books, and they remain in the old presses mentioned in the ‘Diary’ of 24 Aug. 1666. The library contains three thousand volumes. Among the manuscripts are papers collected by Pepys for his naval history, and a collection of Scottish poetry formed by Sir Richard Maitland, lord Lethington [q. v.] Besides some old printed books there is a collection of broadside ballads said to be the largest ever made, and of tracts on the popish plots, of ‘news pamphlets’ from 1 Jan. 1659–60 to 1 Jan. 1665–6, and one of prints and drawings illustrative of London. Pepys's catalogues and memoranda are especially neat and businesslike. There are also fifty volumes of Pepys's manuscripts in the Rawlinson collection in the Bodleian, and some other of his papers belong to Mr. J. Eliot Hodgkin, formerly of Childwall, Richmond. A portrait of Pepys by John Hayls [q. v.], representing him with his song ‘Beauty Retire,’ is in the National Portrait Gallery. One by Lely is in the Pepysian Library at Magdalene, and another by Kneller in the college hall; another by Kneller is at the Royal Society, and a third by Kneller was exhibited at the Portrait Exhibition of 1866, by Mr. Andrew Pepys Cockerell. Mrs. Frederick Pepys Cockerell has a small portrait also attributed to Kneller, but more probably is the same as that by Savill, mentioned in his ‘Diary’ for 1661–2. A picture by Verrio at Christ's Hospital of James II receiving the mathematical scholars includes a figure of Pepys.
A monument to Pepys in St. Olave's Church, designed by Sir Alfred Blomfield, was unveiled on 18 March 1884, when an address was delivered by J. R. Lowell, then minister for the United States. A ‘contemporary account,’ quoted by Lord Braybrooke, declares Pepys to have been the most useful minister who ever filled his position in England. It is, in fact, plain that Pepys was a very able and energetic official and came at a critical period, when an approach to the modern system of organisation was being introduced. His biographers have expressed some surprise that a man so highly respected, and apparently upon such good grounds, by his contemporaries should have made the unique confessions of weaknesses now famous. The explanation is probably very simple. The ‘Diary’ shows that Pepys was a very keen man of business, careful in money matters, sufficiently honourable in his own conduct, and objecting strongly to corruption in others; a shrewd observer of boundless curiosity, and, though anything but romantic, capable of taking a very lively interest in the art and literature of the day. He was musical at a time when society had not ceased to be musical, and he joined in the pursuits of the ‘virtuosoes’ who were beginning to collect books and pictures, and amusing themselves with the infant science of the Royal Society. Such qualities are certainly not incompatible with the appetite for scandal, the tastes for enjoyment of a not very refined kind, and the odd personal vanities which are so candidly avowed in the ‘Diary.’ Its piquancy is not due to its expression of uncommon emotions, but precisely to the frankness which reveals emotions, all but universal, which most people conceal from themselves, and nearly all men from others. Boswell not only felt but avowed similar weaknesses. Pepys avowed them, though only to himself. He was not a hypocrite in cipher, though no doubt as reserved as his neighbours in longhand. The ‘unconscious humour’ which Lowell attributes to him lies in the coolness of his confession, with which his readers sympathise, though they would not make similar confessions themselves. It seems to be highly improbable that he ever thought of publicity for his diaries, though he may have kept them as materials for an autobiography which was never executed.
Pepys's only acknowledged publication was: ‘Memoirs relating to the State of the Royal Navy of England for ten years determined December 1688,’ 1690. ‘The Portugal History, or a Relation of the Troubles that happened in the Court of Portugal in the years 1667 and 1668 … by S. P., esq.,’ 1677, has also been attributed to him.
Pepys's ‘Diary’ remained in the library at Magdalene until 1825, when it was published in ‘Memoirs of Samuel Pepys, comprising his Diary from 1659 to 1669, deciphered by the Rev. J. Smith … and a Selection of his private Correspondence, edited by Richard, Lord Braybrooke.’ The ‘Diary’ fills six small volumes of closely written shorthand. The Hon. and Rev. George Neville, master of Magdalene College, examined it upon the appearance of Evelyn's ‘Diary,’ and showed it to Lord Grenville, who deciphered a few pages and gave his results to John Smith, then an undergraduate of St. John's College, who afterwards took holy orders, became rector of Baldock, Hertfordshire, in 1832, and died in 1870. He was employed in deciphering the rest from 1819 to 1822, working, it is said, from twelve to fourteen hours a day. Pepys had left in the library a transcript in longhand of his shorthand account of Charles II's escape, which would have given the key. The system is that of Thomas Shelton, who published his ‘Tachygraphy’ in 1641 (see paper ‘on the Cipher of Pepys's Diary,’ communicated to the Manchester Literary Club, by T. E. Bailey in 1876). Pepys wrote the parts 'unfit for publication' in French, and sometimes in Latin, Greek, or Spanish, and afterwards interpolated 'dummy letters,' as Mr. Mynors Bright discovered. The second edition appeared in 1828; a third, adding a fourth of the whole, in 1848; a fourth, with fresh notes, in 1854; other editions, as that in Bonn's Library (1857), are reprints of this. The edition by Mynors Bright [q. v.], of which a third had never been printed before, appeared in 1875–9, in 6 vols. 8vo. Bright omitted about a fifth of the 'Diary,' but left a transcript of the whole to Magdalene College. The whole, except passages which cannot possibly be printed, has been finally published in 8 vols. 8vo (1893, &c.), edited by Mr. Henry B. Wheatley, F.S.A.
[The main authorities for Pepys's life are the diaries and correspondence published as above; see also Life, Journals, and Correspondence of Samuel Pepys … including a narrative of his voyage to Tangier, deciphered from the Shorthand MSS. in the Bodleian Library, by the Rev. John Smith, A. M., 2 vols. 8vo, 1840, and Samuel Pepys and the World he Lived In, by Henry B. Wheatley, F.S.A.; see also Academy, August and September 1893 (letters to Charlett from Ballard MSS. in the Bodleian); Macmillan's Magazine, November 1893 (by C. H. Firth, on his early career); Atlantic Monthly, 1891 (on his wife's family); An Address on the Medical History of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Pepys, read before the Abernethian Society by D'Arcy Power, F.R.C.S., 1895 (reprinted from the Lancet); Historical Review, April 1892, by J. R. Tanner on 'Pepys and the Popish Plot'; for an account of the proceedings about Atkins, see also State Trials, vi. 1482, &c., and vii. 231, &c.]
Encyclopædia Britannica 11th edition (1911)
PEPYS, SAMUEL (1633–1703), English diarist, was born on the 23rd of February 1633. The place of his birth is not known. The name was pronounced in the 17th century, and has always been pronounced by the family, "Peeps." The family can be traced in Cambridgeshire as far back as the reign of Edward I. They rose by slow degrees from the class of small copyholders and yeoman farmers to the position of gentry. In 1563 they had a recognized right to use a coat of arms. John Pepys, Samuel's father, was a younger son, who, like other gentlemen in his position in that age, went into trade. He was for a time established as a tailor in London, but in 1661 he inherited a small estate at Brampton near Huntingdon, where he lived during the last years of his life.
Samuel was fifth child and second son of a large family, all of whom he survived. His first school was in Huntingdon, but he was afterwards sent to St Paul's in London, where he remained till 1650. While at St Paul's he was an eye-witness of the execution of King Charles I. On the 21st of June in that year his name was entered as a sizar on the books of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, but it was transferred to Magdalene on the 1st of October. On the 5th of March he entered into residence, and he remained there till 1654 or 1655. He obtained a Spendluffe scholarship a month after entering, and one on Dr John Smith's foundation on the 14th of October 1653. Nothing is known of his university career except that on the 21st of October 1653 he was publicly admonished with another undergraduate for having been "scandalously overserved with drink." At Cambridge he wrote a romance, Love is a Cheat, which he afterwards destroyed. On the 1st of December 1655 he was married at St Margaret's church, Westminster, to Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander Marchant, Sieur de St Michel, a French Huguenot exile from Anjou who had married an English lady named Kingsmill. Pepys had at this time no independent means, and probably relied on his cousins, the Montagues, to provide for him. On the 26th of March 1658 he was cut for the stone, an event which he always kept in memory by a solemn anniversary. In 1659 he went as secretary with his cousin, Edward Montagu, afterwards earl of Sandwich, on a voyage to the Sound. On his return he was engaged as a clerk under Mr (afterwards Sir) Edward Downing, one of the four tellers of the exchequer. In 1660 he accompanied his cousin, who commanded the fleet which brought King Charles II. back from exile. In that year, by the interest of his cousin, he was named "clerk of the acts" in the navy office, but was compelled to buy off a competitor, one Barlow, by an annuity of £100.
Pepys was now fairly established in the official career which led him to honour. On the 1st of January 1660 he had begun his second and hidden life as a diarist. It is in that capacity that he is of such unique interest. But if his diary had never been written, or had been lost, he would still be a notable man, as an able official, the author of valuable Memoirs of the Navy (1690), an amateur musician and protector of musicians, a gentleman who took an enlightened interest in science, and was elected president of the Royal Society. To his contemporary diarist, John Evelyn, he appeared as "a worthy, industrious and curious person." It is true that Andrew Marvel accused him of having accumulated a fortune of £40,000 by "illegal wages." But this charge, made in a pamphlet called A List of the principal Labourers in the great design of Popery and Arbitrary Power, was attributed to political animosity. To the world he appeared as an honourable and religious man, and so he would seem to have been to us if he had not recorded in his diary all those weaknesses of character and sins of the flesh which other men are most careful to conceal.
His place of clerk to the Navy Board was equivalent to the post of permanent under secretary in modern times. It made him chief of the secretariat and a member of the administrating body of the navy. Though he was so ignorant of business that he did not even know the multiplication table when he first took office, he soon mastered the needful mechanical details by working early and late. He had other posts and honours, which came to him either as consequential on his clerkship or because he was a useful official. On the 23rd of July 1660 he was appointed one of the clerks of the privy seal, an office which returned him £3 a day in fees. He was made a justice of the peace. In 1662 he was appointed a younger brother of the Trinity House, and was named a commissioner for managing the affairs of Tangier, then occupied by an English garrison. In 1664 he became a member of the corporation of the Royal Fishery, to which body he was named treasurer when another official had brought the accounts into confusion. In that year he also joined the Royal Society. During the naval war with Holland (1664–67) he proved himself an indefatigable worker. As surveyor of the victualling, the whole burden of a most important department was thrown on him in addition to his regular duties. He in fact organized the department. While the plague was raging in London in 1666 he remained at his post when many of his colleagues ran away, and he manfully avowed his readiness to take the risk of disease, as others of the king's servants faced the dangers of war. He had now gained the full confidence of the lord high admiral, the duke of York, afterwards King James II. When, on the termination of the war, the navy office was violently attacked in parliament, he was entrusted with its defence. The speech which he delivered at the bar of the House of Commons on the 5th of March 1668 passed for a complete vindication. In sober fact the charges of mismanagement were well founded, but the fault was not in the officials of the navy office only, and Pepys, who was master of the details, had no difficulty in throwing dust in the eyes of the House of Commons, which was ignorant. Nobody indeed was better acquainted with the defects of the office, for in 1668 he drew up for the duke of York two papers of inquiry and rebuke, “The Duke's Reflections on the severall Members of the Navy Board's Duty ” and “ The Duke's answer to their severall excuses ” (Harleian MS. 6003). In 1669 he travelled abroad. His success in addressing parliament gave him the ambition to become a member of the House of Commons. He stood for Aldborough, but the death of his wife, on the 10th of November 1669, prevented him from conducting his canvass in person, and he was not elected. In 1673 he was returned for Castle Rising. The validity of his election was questioned by his opponent, Mr Offley, and the committee of privilege decided against him, but the prorogation of the house prevented further action. The no-popery agitation was now growing in strength. The duke of York was driven from office by the Test Act, and Pepys was accused of “ popery,” partly on the ground that he was said to keep a crucifix and altar in his house, partly because he was accused of having converted his wife to Roman Catholicism. The crucifix story broke down on examination, but there is some reason to believe that Mrs Pepys did become a Roman Catholic. Pepys was transferred by the king from the navy oiice to the secretaryship of the admiralty in 1673. In 1679 he was member for Harwich, and in the height of the popish plot mania he was accused, manifestly because he was a trusted servant of the duke of York, of betraying naval secrets to the French, but the charges were finally dropped. Pepys was released on bail on the 12th of February 1680. In that year he accompanied the king to Newmarket, and took down the narrative of his escape after the battle of Worcester. A proposal to make him head of King's College, Cambridge, in 1681, came to nothing. In 1682 he accompanied the duke of York to Scotland, where the uncleanly habits of the people caused him great offence. In 1683–1684 he was engaged in arranging for the evacuation of Tangier. He visited the place and kept a diary of his voyage. In 1684 he was elected president of the Royal Society. On the accession of King James II. in 1685 he retained his place as secretary to the admiralty, to which he had been appointed by patent when James resumed the lord high admiralship (June 10, 1684), and Pepys was in effect minister for the navy. The revolution of 1688 ended his official career. He was dismissed on the 9th of March 1689, and spent the rest of his life in retirement, and, except for a brief imprisonment on the charge of Jacobite intrigue in 1690, in peace. He died at his house in Clapham on the 25th of May 1703. His last years were passed in correspondence with his friends, who included Evelyn and Dryden, or in arranging his valuable library. It was left on his death to his nephew, John Jackson, son of his sister Pauline, and in 1724, by the terms of his will, was transferred to Magdalene College, Cambridge, where it is still preserved.
Such was the outward and visible life of Samuel Pepys, the public servant whose diligence was rewarded by success. The other Pepys, whom Sir Walter Scott called “that curious fellow,” was revealed in 1825, when his secret diary was partly published. The first entry was made on the 1st of January 1660, the last on the 31st of May 1669, when the increasing weakness of his eyes, which had given him trouble since 1664, compelled him to cease writing in the conditions he imposed upon himself. If there is in all the literature of the world a book which can be called “unique” with strict propriety it is this. Confessions, diaries, journals, autobiographies abound, but such a revelation of a man's self has not yet been discovered. The diary is a thing apart by virtue of three qualities which are rarely found in perfection when separate and nowhere else in combination. It was secret; it was full; and it was honest. That Pepys meant it for his own eye alone is clear. He wrote it in Shelton's system of tachygraphy published in 1641, which he complicated by using foreign languages or by varieties of his own invention whenever he had to record the passages least at to be seen by his servants or by “all the world.” Relying on his cypher he put down whatever he saw, heard, felt or imagined, every motion of his mind, every action of his body. And he noted all this, not as he desired it to appear to others, but as it was to his seeing. The result is “a human document” of amazing vitality. The man who displays himself to himself in the diary is often odious, greedy, cowardly, casuistical, brutal. He tells how he kicked his cook, and blacked his wife's eye, and was annoyed when others saw what he had done. He notes how he compelled the wives of unfortunate men who came to draw their husband's pay at the navy office to prostitute themselves; how he took “compliments,” that is to say gifts, from all who had business to do with the navy office; how he got tipsy and suffered from sick headache; how he repented, made vows of sobriety, and found casuistical excuses for breaking them. The style is as peculiar as the matter colloquial, garrulous, racy from simplicity of language, and full of the unconscious humour which is never absent from a truthful account of the workings of nature in the average sensual man. His position enabled him to see much. His complete harmony with the animalism and vulgarity of the Restoration makes him a valuable witness for his time. To his credit must be put the facts that he knew the animalism and vulgarity to be what they were; that he had a real love of music and gave help to musicians, Cesare Morelli for instance; that though he made money out of his places he never allowed bad work to be done for the navy if he could help it; that he was a hard worker; and that he had a capacity for such acts of kindness and generosity as are compatible with a gross temperament and a pedestrian ambition.
The diary, written in a very small hand in six volumes, was included among his books at Magdalene. On the publication of Evelyn's diary in 1818, the then head of Magdalene, the Hon. and Rev. George Neville, decided to publish Pepys's. Part of the MS. was deciphered by his cousin Lord Grenville. The library contained both the short and the long-hand copies of Pepys's account of King Charles's adventures, but its books were so little known by the curators that this key was overlooked. The MS. was deciphered by John Smith, afterwards rector of Baldock in Hertfordshire, between 1819 and 1822. The first and partial edition, edited by Richard Neville Griffin, 3rd Lord Braybrooke, appeared in 1825 in two volumes quarto (London). It attracted great attention and was reviewed by Sir Walter Scott in the Quarterly for January 1826. A second edition in two octavo volumes followed in 1828 (London). A third and enlarged edition in five volumes octavo appeared in 1848–1849, and a fourth in four in 1854 (London). In 1875–1879 Dr Minors Bright published a still fuller edition in six volumes octavo (London). Many portraits of Pepys are known to have been taken and several can be traced. One was taken by Savill (1661), another by John Hales (1666), now in the National Portrait Gallery. A portrait by Sir Peter Lely is in the Pepysian library, Magdalene College, Cambridge. Three portraits were taken by Sir Godfrey Kneller, of which one belongs to the Royal Society, and another is in the Hall of Magdalene. Pepys's only known publication in his life was the Memoirs of the Navy, but other writings have been attributed to him.
Authorities.—The standard edition of Pepys's Diary is that by H. B. Wheatley, in nine volumes octavo, with a supplementary volume of Pepysiana (London, 1893–1899). See also Wheatley's Samuel Pepys, and the world he lived in (London, 1880); The Life, Journals and Correspondence of Pepys, by J. Smith (London, 1841); E. H. Moorhouse, Samuel Pepys, Administrator, Observer, Gossip (1909); and P. Lubbock, Samuel Pepys (1909). (D. H.)