February 23, 1633 - May 26, 1703
Samuel Pepys was a 17th century English civil servant, famous
for his diary. (His surname was then pronounced "Peeps",
although some modern relatives with the name pronounce theirs
"Pep-iss".) The diary is a fascinating combination of personal
revelation and eyewitness accounts of great events, such as the
Great Plague and the Great Fire of London.
was born in London in 1633, the son of a tailor. He was educated
at St Paul's School, London, and Magdalene College, Cambridge.
In 1655 he married, and in the following year entered the
household of his cousin Admiral Edward Montagu.
On January 1, 1660 he started his diary. The same year he became
Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board. In May 1669 his diary came
to a sudden conclusion, owing to the weak state of Pepys' eyes.
His wife died the same year.
In 1672 he was appointed Secretary to the Admiralty, an
appointment he held with one interruption of four years at the
end of Charles II's reign until the Glorious Revolution when he
retired from public life and was later succeeded by his former
clerk Josiah Burchett. As well as being one of the most
important civil servants of his age, he was a widely cultivated
man, taking a learned interest in books, music, the theatre and
science. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1665
and later served as President. He died childless in 1703. His
contemporary John Evelyn remembered him as "universally beloved,
hospitable, generous, learned in many things". Pepys' character
seems encapsulated in his Latin motto mens cujusque is est
quisque, which can be translated as "The Mind is the Man".
Pepys was a lifelong bibliophile and carefully nurtured his
large collection of books, manuscripts and prints, which
totalled exactly 3,000 volumes at his death. These comprise one
of the most important surviving 17th-century private libraries,
with remarkable holdings of incunabula, manuscripts and printed
ballads. Pepys made elaborate provisions in his will for the
preservation of the library, and since 1724 it has been kept
intact in Pepys' original bookcases as The Pepys Library at
Magdalene College, Cambridge, carefully following Pepys'
instruction that "the placing as to heighth be strictly reviewed
and where found requiring it more nicely adjusted".
Amongst the most important items in the Library are the original
bound manuscripts of Pepys' diary. The six volumes were written
in one of the many forms of shorthand used in Pepys' time, but
after his death they were thought to be ciphered. After finding
the specific shorthand book in Pepys' library, John Smith was
able to put the diaries in plain English (1819 to 1822). A
shortened (and expurgated) publication appeared in 1825; the
complete diary of more than 3800 pages appeared in 1893.
Pepys recorded his daily life for almost ten years in
breathtaking honesty; the women he pursued, his friends, his
dealings are all laid out. His diary reveals his jealousies,
insecurities, trivial concerns, and his fractious relationship
with his wife. It is an important account of London in the
1660s. Included are his personal account of the restoration of
the monarchy, the Great Plague of 1665, the Great Fire of London
of 1666, and the arrival of the Dutch fleet, 1665-1667.
His job required that he meet with many people to dispense
monies and make contracts. He often laments over how he "lost
his labour" having gone to some appointment at a coffee house or
tavern, there to discover that the person he was seeking was not
within. This was a constant frustration to Pepys.
The diary similarly gives a detailed account of Pepys' personal
life. He liked wine and plays, and was a womanizer. He also
spent a great deal of time evaluating his fortune and his place
in the world. He was always curious and often acted on that
curiosity, as he acted upon almost all his impulses.
Periodically he would resolve to cut down on drinking and
womanizing and to devote more time to those endeavours where he
thought his time should be spent. For example, this entry on New
Year's Eve, 1661, "I have newly taken a solemn oath about
abstaining from plays and wine..." The following months reveal
his lapses to the reader as by February 17 "And here I drank
wine upon necessity, being ill for the want of it."
The diary gives a detailed account of the pattern of Pepys'
life. Reading it, one cannot help thinking how very much we must
all be alike. His characteristic closing sentence was: "And so
In 2002, Claire Tomalin won the 2002 Whitbread Book of the Year
for writing the biography Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self. The
awarders called it a "rich, thoughtful and deeply satisfying"
account that "unearth[s] a wealth of material about the
uncharted life of Samuel Pepys", notably providing context for
the Diaries and an account of the 34 years of his life following
In December 2003, his diary, which was at the time being
serialised as a weblog run by Phil Gyford, won an award in The
Guardian's Best of British Blogs, in the specialist-blog
The English diarist and public official Samuel Pepys (1633-1703)
kept a diary that provides a graphic account of English social
life and conditions during the early period of the Restoration.
Samuel Pepys was born on Feb. 23, 1633, in London. His father
was a tailor. Pepys was sent to school first at Huntingdon and
later to St. Paul's in London. In June 1650 he entered Trinity
College, Cambridge, but he transferred to Magdalene College the
following October and graduated in 1653.
In 1655 Pepys married Elizabeth St. Michel, the young daughter
of a Huguenot exile. The couple was apparently supported at
first by Pepys's cousin Sir Edward Montagu, later the Earl of
Sandwich, whose service Pepys entered. In 1660 Pepys accompanied
Montagu as secretary on the voyage that returned Charles II to
England. That same year Pepys was appointed clerk of the acts at
the Navy Office. This appointment was significant because Pepys
was to serve the navy in some capacity for the greater part of
his life, working to improve its efficiency and to ensure its
In 1662 Pepys was appointed one of the commissioners for
Tangier, which was then occupied by the English; 3 years later
he was named treasurer. When the Dutch War broke out in 1665, he
was appointed surveyor general of the Victualing Office in
addition to his regular duties for the navy, and he remained at
his post throughout the Great Plague of 1665 although most
inhabitants left London. Pepys saved the Navy Office from the
Great Fire of 1666 by having the buildings around it destroyed.
When the Dutch War ended in 1668, the Duke of York entrusted
Pepys with the task of acquitting the navy of mismanagement.
Pepys's appearance before Parliament evidently whetted his own
aspirations for a seat. He was elected to Parliament in 1673 and
again in 1679. In 1673 the King transferred Pepys from the Navy
Office to the secretaryship of the Admiralty. At the time of the
Popish Plot in 1678, Whig opponents of the Duke of York accused
Pepys of giving naval secrets to the French. Pepys resigned his
office and was imprisoned in the Tower in 1679, but the charges
against him were unfounded, and Pepys was vindicated and freed
Pepys's wife had died in 1669. His principal companions since
then had been such men of taste and knowledge as John Evelyn,
Christopher Wren, and John Dryden. In 1684 Pepys was elected
president of the Royal Society. That same year he was also
restored to the secretaryship of the Admiralty, retaining the
post until the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
After Pepys retired from public life in 1689, he led a
relatively quiet life. He published his Memoirs … of the Royal
Navy in 1690. He corresponded with friends and acted as
consultant to the navy. He died on May 26, 1703.
Pepys is remembered today for the diary he kept for 9 1/ 2 years
in the 1660s. In his diary, written in cipher, Pepys recorded
both the significant and trivial events of his public and
private worlds. Together with his impressions of his own
domestic situation, he recorded his thoughts about Charles II,
the Great Plague of 1665, the Great Fire of 1666, the
Restoration theatre, the King's mistresses, the Dutch War, and
the Duke of York. Failing eyesight caused him to discontinue the
diary while still a young man, but its intimate record of his
daily life and of the early Restoration remains both interesting
and historically valuable.
Pepys's diary was not transcribed and published until 1825. The
first virtually complete edition was issued between 1893 and
1899, edited by H. B. Wheatley.
JACANA HOME PAGE
CLASSIC VIDEO CLIPS
JACANA ASTRONOMY SITE
JACANA PHOTO LIBRARY |
OLD MAUN PHOTO GALLERY |
MAUN PHONE DIRECTORY
FREE FONTS |
PIC OF THE DAY
GENERAL LIBRARY |
MAP LIBRARY |
HOUSE PLANS LIBRARY
MAUN E-MAIL, WEBSITE & SKYPE LIST
BOTSWANA GPS CO-ORDINATES
MAUN SAFARI WEB LINKS |
FREE SOFTWARE |
JACANA WEATHER PAGE
JACANA CROSSWORD LIBRARY |
JACANA CARTOON PAGE |
This web page was last updated on:
15 December, 2008