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Deborah Willet (1650–1678) was a young maid employed by Samuel Pepys (1633–1703), an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament. She and Pepys, about 20 years her senior, engaged in a liaison that was chronicled in his famous diary. When Pepys's diary first was published in the late nineteenth century, the more explicit parts describing the author's affair with Deb Willet were not printed. They only appeared in the most-recent version of the diary.[1]

Deb Willet was the third of seven children born to the Bristol merchant Robert Willet and his wife Elizabeth. She was baptised in December 1650.[2] In late September 1667 Pepys was introduced to Willet[3] and she was employed as a companion for Pepys's wife, Elisabeth, from 1 October 1667,[4] with whom she attended the theatre. In late October 1668 Willet began an intimate relationship with Samuel Pepys. Elisabeth Pepys soon discovered her husband with Willet and after a few weeks the maid was dismissed. Pepys later gave Willet money, sought her out at her new home, and kissed her. His wife threatened to attack the "girle" on learning this, and Pepys was forced to renounce Willet in writing.

Deb Willet was not the only personal servant with whom Pepys was intimate, but she appears to have been the one with whom he was most smitten. In the next-to-last sentence of Pepys's 10-year diary one reads, "my amours to Deb are past."[5]

In 2006 Kate Loveman reported that Deb Willet remained in London after leaving the Pepys household, marrying a theology graduate named Jeremiah Wells in 1670.[6] Pepys later helped Wells obtain a position as a ship's chaplain. The couple had two daughters, Deborah (b. 1670) and Elizabeth (b. 1672).[7]

Mrs Wells died in 1678 and her husband followed a year and a half later.

References

  1. ^ See a discussion in Tomalin, Claire (2002). Samuel Pepys, The Unequalled Self. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-41143-7. 
  2. ^ Loveman, Kate (2011). "Further Information on Samuel Pepys and Deb Willet after the Diary". Notes & Queries. 58 (3): 388–390. doi:10.1093/notesj/gjr118. 
  3. ^ See diary entry for 27 September 1667
  4. ^ See diary entry for 1 October 1667
  5. ^ See diary entry for 31 May 1669.
  6. ^ Loveman, Kate (2006). "Samuel Pepys and Deb Willet after the Diary". The History Journal. 49: 893–901. doi:10.1017/S0018246X06005565. 
  7. ^ Loveman (2011), 388

Further reading

External links


2 Annotations

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Deborah "Deb" Willet (1650–1678) was a young maid employed by Samuel Pepys (1633–1703), an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament. She and Pepys, about 20 years her senior, engaged in extramarital liaisons that were chronicled in his famous diary. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deb_Willet

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Deb is about to become the star of her own story. Andrea Zuvich -- one of my favorite 17th century authors -- posted this review today of a book to be released in September 2017:

Review: “Pleasing Mr. Pepys” by Deborah Swift

Pleasing Mr. Pepys is the newest work by Deborah Swift and set to release this September (2017), and I was fortunate to have been given an advance review copy. To me, Swift brought Deborah Willet, the Pepyses, and the London of the 1660s to life in an exciting and sometimes touching way. I found this to be a really enjoyable story, with its various plot-lines, and believe it is perfect not only for 17th-century aficionados but anyone who enjoys a good book.

This novel had a sympathetic heroine, Deb Willet, who was very much a real-life person whom we know today from the diary of Samuel Pepys, for she was employed as a companion for his wife, Elisabeth.

Not much is known about Deborah Willet’s life, and I think the fictitious story-line Swift created for the gaps was entertaining and does not detract from the little that we do know of Willet’s life. Deb is well-educated, practical, resourceful, and very intelligent (something that doesn’t go unnoticed).

Pepys is, well, Pepys (I found him lovably annoying, just as when I read his Diary – which, by the way, I would suggest people read before reading this because that makes the experience more rewarding). The plot included a love story I rooted for, complex villains, suspenseful espionage, Anglo-Dutch rivalry, everyday living in the late 1660s, the social unrest of the period, political intrigues, and a glimpse into two very different social spheres.

I loved how Swift incorporated the Poor-Whores Petition of 1668 into her story, too. Jeremiah Wells, one of the possible love interests, was characterized into so amiable and virtuous a fellow, that I was half-besotted by him by the middle of the book (ha!).

http://www.andreazuvich.com/book-reviews/pleasi...

Thanks, Andrea -- I suspect we all agree that everyone should read the Diary first.

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References

Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.

1667

1668

1669