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|Born||(1633-02-23)23 February 1633
|Died||26 May 1703(1703-05-26) (aged 70)
Clapham, Surrey, England
|St Olave's, London, England
|Education||Huntingdon Grammar School, St Paul's School and Cambridge University|
|Occupation||Naval Administrator started off as Clerk of the Acts working his way up to Chief Secretary to the Admiralty and Tory Member of Parliament for Castle Rising and Harwich|
Board member of
|President of the Royal Society, Master of Trinity House, Freeman of the City of London, Freeman of Portsmouth, Treasurer of the Tangier Committee|
|Spouse(s)||Elisabeth Pepys (née de St Michel)|
Samuel Pepys PRS, MP, JP, (/ˈpiːps/; 23 February 1633 – 26 May 1703) was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man. Although Pepys had no maritime experience, he rose by patronage, hard work, and his talent for administration to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and subsequently King James II.
The detailed private diary Pepys kept from 1660 until 1669 was first published in the 19th century and 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 of London, the Second Dutch War, and the Great Fire of London.
Pepys was born in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, London on 23 February 1633, the son of John Pepys (1601–1680), a tailor, and Margaret Pepys (née Kite; d. 1667), daughter of a Whitechapel butcher. His great uncle Talbot Pepys was Recorder and briefly MP for Cambridge in 1625. His father's first cousin, Sir Richard Pepys, was elected MP for Sudbury in 1640, appointed Baron of the Exchequer on 30 May 1654, and appointed Lord Chief Justice of Ireland on 25 September 1655.
Pepys was the fifth of eleven children, but child mortality was high and he was soon the oldest survivor. He was baptised at St Bride's Church on 3 March. Pepys did not spend all of his infancy in London; for a while he was sent to live with a nurse, Goody Lawrence, at Kingsland, just north of the city. In about 1644 Pepys attended Huntingdon Grammar School, before being educated at St Paul's School, London, c. 1646–1650. He attended the execution of Charles I, in 1649.
In 1650 he went to Cambridge University, having received two exhibitions from St Paul's School (perhaps owing to the influence of Sir George Downing, who was chairman of the judges and for whom he later worked at the Exchequer) and a grant from the Mercers' Company. In October he was admitted as a sizar to Magdalene College; he moved there in March 1651 and took his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1654.
Pepys married the fourteen-year-old Elisabeth de St Michel, a descendant of French Huguenot immigrants, first in a religious ceremony on 10 October 1655, and later in a civil ceremony on 1 December 1655 at St Margaret's, Westminster.
From a young age, Pepys suffered from bladder stones in his urinary tract – a condition from which his mother and brother John also later suffered. He was almost never without pain, as well as other symptoms, including "blood in the urine" (hematuria). By the time of his marriage, the condition was very severe.
In 1657 Pepys decided to undergo surgery, not an easy option, as the operation was known to be especially painful and hazardous. Nevertheless, Pepys consulted surgeon Thomas Hollier and, on 26 March 1658, the operation took place in a bedroom in the house of Pepys' cousin Jane Turner. Pepys' stone was successfully removed and he resolved to hold a celebration on every anniversary of the operation, which he did for several years. However, there were long-term effects from the operation. The incision on his bladder broke open again late in his life. The procedure may have left him sterile: though there is no direct evidence for this, as he was childless before the operation.
On 1 January 1660 ("1 January 1659/1660" in contemporary terms) Pepys began to keep a diary. He recorded his daily life for almost ten years. The women he pursued, his friends, and 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. The juxtaposition of his commentary on politics and national events, alongside the very personal, can be seen from the beginning. His opening paragraphs, written in January 1660, begin:
The entries from the first few months are filled with news of General George Monck's march on London. In April and May of that year – at this time, he was encountering problems with his wife – he accompanied Montagu's fleet to the Netherlands to bring Charles II back from exile. Montagu was made Earl of Sandwich on 18 June, and the position of Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board was secured by Pepys on 13 July. As secretary to the board, Pepys was entitled to a £350 annual salary plus the various gratuities and benefits – including bribes – that came with the job. He rejected an offer of £1000 for the position from a rival and soon afterwards moved to official accommodation in Seething Lane in the City of London.
On the Navy Board, Pepys proved to be a more able and efficient worker than colleagues in higher positions. This often annoyed Pepys and provoked much harsh criticism in his diary. Among his colleagues were Admiral Sir William Penn, Sir George Carteret, Sir John Mennes, and Sir William Batten.
Learning arithmetic from a private tutor and using models of ships to make up for his lack of first-hand nautical experience, Pepys came to play a significant role in the board's activities. In September 1660 he was made a Justice of the Peace, on 15 February 1662 Pepys was admitted as a Younger Brother of Trinity House, and on 30 April he received the freedom of Portsmouth. Through Sandwich, he was involved in the administration of the short-lived English colony at Tangier. He joined the Tangier committee in August 1662 when the colony was first founded and became its treasurer in 1665. In 1663 he independently negotiated a £3,000 contract for Norwegian masts, demonstrating the freedom of action that his superior abilities allowed. He was appointed to a commission of the royal fishery on 8 April 1664.
His job required him to meet many people to dispense money and make contracts. He often laments how he "lost his labour" having gone to some appointment at a coffee house or tavern, to discover that the person he was seeking was not there. These occasions were a constant source of frustration to Pepys.
As well as providing a first-hand account of the Restoration, Pepys's diary is notable for its detailed accounts of several other major events of the 1660s, along with the lesser known Diary of John Evelyn. In particular it is an invaluable source for the study of the Second Anglo-Dutch War of 1665–7, the Great Plague of 1665, and the Great Fire of London in 1666. In relation to the Plague and Fire, C. S. Knighton has written: "From its reporting of these two disasters to the metropolis in which he thrived, Pepys's diary has become a national monument." Again writing about these events, Robert Latham – the editor of the definitive edition of the diary – has remarked: "His descriptions of both – agonisingly vivid – achieve their effect by being something more than superlative reporting; they are written with compassion. As always with Pepys it is people, not literary effects, that matter."
In early 1665 the start of the Second Anglo-Dutch War placed great pressure on Pepys. With his colleagues being either engaged elsewhere or incompetent, Pepys had to conduct a great deal of business himself. He excelled under the pressure, which was extremely great due to the complexity and underfunding of the Royal Navy. At the outset he proposed a centralised approach to supplying the fleet. His idea was accepted, and he was made surveyor-general of victualling in October 1665. The position brought a further £300 a year.
About this Second Anglo-Dutch War Pepys wrote: "In all things, in wisdom, courage, force and success, the Dutch have the best of us and do end the war with victory on their side". And King Charles II said: "Don't fight the Dutch, imitate them".
In 1667, with the war lost, Pepys helped to discharge the navy. The Dutch, who had defeated England on open water, now began to threaten the mainland itself. In June 1667 they conducted their Raid on the Medway, broke the defensive chain at Gillingham, and towed away the Royal Charles, one of the Royal Navy's most important ships. As he had done during the Fire and the Plague, Pepys again removed his wife and his gold from London. While the Dutch raid was a major concern in itself, Pepys was personally placed under a different kind of pressure: the Navy Board, and his role as Clerk of the Acts, came under scrutiny from the public and from Parliament. The war ended in August and on 17 October the House of Commons created a committee of "miscarriages". On 20 October, a list of ships and commanders at the time of the division of the fleet in 1666 was demanded from Pepys. However, these demands were actually quite desirable for him: tactical and strategic mistakes were not the responsibility of the Navy Board. The Board did face some allegations regarding the Medway raid, but they could exploit the criticism already attracted by the commissioner of Chatham, Peter Pett, to deflect criticism from themselves. The committee accepted this tactic when they reported in February 1668. The Board was, however, criticised for its use of tickets to pay seamen. These tickets could only be exchanged for cash at the Navy's treasury in London. Pepys made a long speech at the bar of the Commons on 5 March 1668 defending this practice. It was, in the words of C. S. Knighton, a "virtuoso performance".
The commission was followed by an investigation led by a more powerful authority, the commissioners of accounts. They met at Brooke House, Holborn, and spent two years scrutinising how the war had been financed. In 1669 Pepys had to prepare detailed answers to the committee's eight "Observations" on the Navy Board's conduct. In 1670 he was forced to defend his own role. A seaman's ticket with Pepys's name on it was produced as incontrovertible evidence of his corrupt dealings but, thanks to the intervention of the king, Pepys emerged from the sustained investigation relatively unscathed.
Outbreaks of plague were not particularly unusual events in London: major epidemics had occurred in 1592, 1603, 1625, and 1636. Furthermore, Pepys was not among the group of people who were most at risk: he did not live in cramped housing, he did not routinely mix with the poor, and he was not required to keep his family in London in the event of a crisis. It was not until June that the unusual seriousness of the plague became apparent, so Pepys's activities in the first five months of the year were not significantly affected by plague. Indeed, Claire Tomalin writes that "the most notable fact about Pepys's plague year is that to him it was one of the happiest of his life." In 1665 he worked very hard, but the outcome was that he quadrupled his fortune. On 31 December, in his annual summary, he wrote, "I have never lived so merrily (besides that I never got so much) as I have done this plague time". Nonetheless, Pepys was certainly concerned about the plague. On 16 August he wrote:
But, Lord! how sad a sight it is to see the streets empty of people, and very few upon the 'Change. Jealous of every door that one sees shut up, lest it should be the plague; and about us two shops in three, if not more, generally shut up.
He also chewed tobacco as a protection against infection, and worried that wig-makers might be using hair from the corpses as a raw material. Furthermore, it was Pepys who suggested that the Navy Office should evacuate to Greenwich, although he did offer to remain in town himself. He would later take great pride in his stoicism. Meanwhile, Elisabeth Pepys was sent to Woolwich. She did not return to Seething Lane until January 1666, and was shocked by the sight of St Olave's churchyard, where 300 people had been buried.
In the early hours of 2 September 1666, Pepys was woken by his servant who had spotted a fire in the Billingsgate area. He decided the fire was not particularly serious and returned to bed. Shortly after waking, his servant returned and reported that 300 houses had been destroyed and that London Bridge was threatened. Pepys went to the Tower to get a better view. Without returning home, he took a boat and observed the fire for over an hour. In his diary, Pepys recorded his observations as follows:
I down to the water-side, and there got a boat and through bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire. Poor Michell's house, as far as the Old Swan, already burned that way, and the fire running further, that in a very little time it got as far as the Steeleyard, while I was there. Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that layoff; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconys till they were, some of them burned, their wings, and fell down. Having staid, and in an hour's time seen the fire: rage every way, and nobody, to my sight, endeavouring to quench it, but to remove their goods, and leave all to the fire, and having seen it get as far as the Steele-yard, and the wind mighty high and driving it into the City; and every thing, after so long a drought, proving combustible, even the very stones of churches, and among other things the poor steeple by which pretty Mrs.————lives, and whereof my old school-fellow Elborough is parson, taken fire in the very top, an there burned till it fell down
Seeing that the wind was driving the fire westward, he ordered the boat to go to Whitehall and became the first person to inform the king of the fire. According to his entry of 2 September 1666, Pepys recommended to the king that homes in the path of the fire be pulled down in order to stem its progress. Accepting this advice, the king told him to go to the Lord Mayor, Thomas Bloodworth, and tell him to start pulling houses down. Pepys took a coach back as far as St Paul's Cathedral, before setting off on foot through the burning city. He found the Lord Mayor, who said, "Lord! what can I do? I am spent: people will not obey me. I have been pulling down houses; but the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it." At noon he returned home and "had an extraordinary good dinner, and as merry, as at this time we could be", before returning to watch the fire in the city once more. Later, he returned to Whitehall, then met his wife in St. James's Park. In the evening they watched the fire from the safety of Bankside. Pepys writes that "it made me weep to see it". Returning home, Pepys met his clerk, Tom Hayter, who had lost everything. Hearing news that the fire was advancing, he started to pack up his possessions by moonlight.
A cart arrived at 4 a.m. on 3 September and Pepys spent much of the day arranging the removal of his possessions. Many of his valuables, including his diary, were sent to a friend from the Navy Office at Bethnal Green. At night he "fed upon the remains of yesterday's dinner, having no fire nor dishes, nor any opportunity of dressing any thing." The next day, Pepys continued to arrange the removal of his possessions. By then, he believed that Seething Lane was in grave danger, so he suggested calling men from Deptford to help pull down houses and defend the king's property. He described the chaos in the city and his curious attempt at saving his own goods:
Sir W. Pen and I to Tower-streete, and there met the fire burning three or four doors beyond Mr. Howell's, whose goods, poor man, his trayes, and dishes, shovells, &c., were flung all along Tower-street in the kennels, and people working therewith from one end to the other; the fire coming on in that narrow streete, on both sides, with infinite fury. Sir W. Batten not knowing how to remove his wine, did dig a pit in the garden, and laid it in there; and I took the opportunity of laying all the papers of my office that I could not otherwise dispose of. And in the evening Sir W. Pen and I did dig another, and put our wine in it; and I my Parmazan cheese, as well as my wine and some other things.
On Wednesday, 5 September, Pepys – who had taken to sleeping on his office floor – was woken by his wife at 2 a.m. She told him that the fire had almost reached All Hallows-by-the-Tower and that it was at the foot of Seething Lane. He decided to send her and his gold – about £2350 – to Woolwich. In the following days Pepys witnessed looting, disorder, and disruption. On 7 September he went to Paul's Wharf and saw the ruins of St Paul's Cathedral, of his old school, of his father's house, and of the house in which he had had his stone removed. Despite all this destruction, Pepys's house, office, and diary were saved.
The diary gives a detailed account of Pepys's personal life. He liked wine, plays, and the company of other people. He also spent 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 devote more time to hard work instead of leisure. For example, in his entry for New Year's Eve, 1661, he writes: "I have newly taken a solemn oath about abstaining from plays and wine ...". The following months reveal his lapses to the reader: by 17 February, it is recorded, "Here I drank wine upon necessity, being ill for the want of it."
As well as being one of the most important civil servants of his age, Pepys was a widely cultivated man, taking an interest in books, music, the theatre, and science. Passionately interested in music, he composed, sang, and played for pleasure, and even arranged music lessons for his servants. He played the lute, viol, violin, flageolet, recorder, and spinet to varying degrees of proficiency. He was also a keen singer, performing at home, in coffee houses, and even in Westminster Abbey. He and his wife took flageolet lessons from the master Thomas Greeting. He also taught his wife to sing and paid for dancing lessons for her (although these stopped when he became jealous of the dancing master).
Propriety did not prevent him from engaging in a number of extramarital liaisons with various women that were chronicled in his diary, often in some detail, and generally using a cocktail of languages (English, French, Spanish, and Latin) when relating the intimate details. The most dramatic of these encounters was with Deborah Willet, a young woman engaged as a companion for Elisabeth Pepys. On 25 October 1668 Pepys was surprised by his wife as he embraced Deb Willet: he writes that his wife "coming up suddenly, did find me imbracing the girl con [with] my hand sub [under] su [her] coats; and endeed I was with my main [hand] in her cunny. I was at a wonderful loss upon it and the girl also...." Following this event, he was characteristically filled with remorse, but (equally characteristically) continued to pursue Willet after she had been dismissed from the Pepys household.
"Mrs Knep was the wife of a Smithfield horsedealer, and the mistress of Pepys" — or at least "she granted him a share of her favours". Scholars disagree on the full extent of the Pepys/Knep relationship, but much of later generations' knowledge of Knep comes from the diary. Pepys first met Knep on 6 December 1665. He described her as "pretty enough, but the most excellent, mad-humoured thing, and sings the noblest that I ever heard in my life." He called her husband "an ill, melancholy, jealous-looking fellow" and suspected him of abusing his wife. Knep provided Pepys with backstage access and was a conduit for theatrical and social gossip. When they wrote notes to each other, Pepys signed himself "Dapper Dickey," while Knep was "Barbry Allen" (that popular song was an item in her musical repertory).
The diary was written in one of the many standard forms of shorthand used in Pepys's time, in this case called Tachygraphy and devised by Thomas Shelton. Though it is clear from its content that it was written as a purely personal record of his life and not for publication, there are indications Pepys actively took steps to preserve the bound manuscripts of his diary. Apart from writing it out in fair copy from rough notes, he also had the loose pages bound into six volumes, catalogued them in his library with all his other books, and is likely to have suspected that eventually someone would find them interesting.
Throughout the period of the diary, Pepys's health suffered from the long hours he worked. Specifically, he believed that his eyesight had been affected by his work. In his last entry, dated 31 May 1669, he reluctantly concluded that, for the sake of his eyes, he should completely stop writing and, from then on, only dictate to his clerks, which meant he could no longer keep his diary. Pepys and his wife took a holiday to France and the Low Countries in June–October 1669; on their return, Elisabeth fell ill and died on 10 November 1669. Pepys erected a monument to her in the church of St Olave's, Hart Street, London. Pepys never remarried, but he did have a long term housekeeper, Mary Skinner, who was assumed by many of his contemporaries to be his mistress and sometimes referred to as Mrs. Pepys. In his will, he left her an annuity of £ 200 and many of his possessions.
In 1672 he became an Elder Brother of Trinity House and served in this capacity until 1689; he was Master of Trinity House in 1676–1677 and again in 1685–1686. In 1673 he was promoted to Secretary to the Admiralty Commission and elected MP for Castle Rising in Norfolk.
In 1673 he was involved with the establishment of the Royal Mathematical School at Christ's Hospital, which was to train 40 boys annually in navigation, for the benefit of the Royal Navy and the English Merchant Navy. In 1675 he was appointed a Governor of Christ's Hospital and for many years he took a close interest in its affairs. Among his papers are two detailed memoranda on the administration of the school. In 1699, after the successful conclusion of a seven-year campaign to get the master of the Mathematical School replaced by a man who knew more about the sea, he was rewarded for his service as a Governor by being made a Freeman of the City of London.
At the beginning of 1679 Pepys was elected MP for Harwich in Charles II's third parliament which formed part of the Cavalier Parliament. He was elected along with Sir Anthony Deane, a Harwich alderman and leading naval architect, to whom Pepys had been patron since 1662. By May of that year, they were under attack from their political enemies. Pepys resigned as Secretary to the Admiralty. They were imprisoned in the Tower of London on suspicion of treasonable correspondence with France, specifically leaking naval intelligence. The charges are believed to have been fabricated under the direction of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury. Pepys was accused, among other things, of being a papist. They were released in July, but proceedings against them were not dropped until June 1680.
Though he had resigned from the Tangier committee in 1679, in 1683 he was sent to Tangier to assist Lord Dartmouth with the evacuation and abandonment of the English colony. After six months' service, he travelled back through Spain accompanied by the naval engineer Edmund Dummer, returning to England after a particularly rough passage on 30 March 1684. In June 1684, once more in favour, he was appointed King's Secretary for the affairs of the Admiralty, a post that he retained after the death of Charles II (February 1685) and the accession of James II. The phantom Pepys Island, alleged to be near South Georgia, was named after him in 1684, having been first "discovered" during his tenure at the Admiralty.
From 1685 to 1688, he was active not only as Secretary for the Admiralty, but also as MP for Harwich. He had been elected MP for Sandwich, but this election was contested and he immediately withdrew to Harwich. When James fled the country at the end of 1688, Pepys's career also came to an end. In January 1689, he was defeated in the parliamentary election at Harwich; in February, one week after the accession of William and Mary, he resigned his secretaryship.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1665 and served as its President from 1 December 1684 to 30 November 1686. Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica was published during this period and its title page bears Pepys' name. There is a probability problem, called the "Newton–Pepys problem", that arose out of correspondence between Newton and Pepys about whether one is more likely to roll at least one six with six dice or at least two sixes with twelve dice. It has been only recently noted that while the gambling advice Newton gave Pepys was correct, the logical argument Newton included with it was unsound.
From May to July 1689, and again in June 1690, he was imprisoned on suspicion of Jacobitism, but no charges were ever successfully brought against him. After his release, he retired from public life at age 57. Ten years later, in 1701, he moved out of London, to a house in Clapham, owned by his friend William Hewer, who had begun his career working for Pepys in the admiralty. Clapham, at the time, was in the country. It is now part of inner London.
Pepys lived there until his death, on 26 May 1703. He had no children and bequeathed his estate to his unmarried nephew John Jackson. His former protégé and friend Hewer acted as the executor of his estate.
Pepys was a lifelong bibliophile and carefully nurtured his large collection of books, manuscripts, and prints. At his death, there were more than 3000 volumes, including the diary, all carefully catalogued and indexed; they form one of the most important surviving 17th century private libraries. The most important items in the Library are the six original bound manuscripts of Pepys's diary, but there are other remarkable holdings, including:
Pepys made detailed provisions in his will for the preservation of his book collection. When his nephew and heir, John Jackson, died in 1723, it was transferred intact to Magdalene College, Cambridge, where it can be seen in the Pepys Building. The bequest included all the original bookcases and his elaborate instructions that placement of the books "...be strictly reviewed and, where found requiring it, more nicely adjusted".
Motivated by the publication of Evelyn's Diary, Lord Granville deciphered a few pages. The Reverend John Smith (later the Rector of St Mary the Virgin in Baldock) was then engaged to transcribe the diaries into plain English. He laboured at this task for three years, from 1819 to 1822, unaware that a key to the shorthand system was stored in Pepys' library a few shelves above the diary volumes. Others had apparently succeeded in reading the diary earlier, perhaps knowing about the key, because a work of 1812 quotes from a passage of it. Smith's transcription, which is also kept in the Pepys Library, was the basis for the first published edition of the diary, edited by Lord Braybrooke, released in two volumes in 1825.
A second transcription, done with the benefit of the key, but often less accurately, was completed in 1875 by Mynors Bright and published in 1875–1879. This added about a third to the previously published text, but still left only about 80% of the diary in print. Henry B. Wheatley, drawing on both his predecessors, produced a new edition in 1893–1899, revised in 1926, with extensive notes and an index.
All of these editions omitted passages (chiefly about Pepys's sexual adventures) which the editors thought too obscene ever to be printed. Wheatley, in the preface to his edition noted:
"a few passages which cannot possibly be printed. It may be thought by some that these omissions are due to an unnecessary squeamishness, but it is not really so, and readers are therefore asked to have faith in the judgement of the editor."
The complete, unexpurgated, and definitive edition, edited and transcribed by Robert Latham and William Matthews, was published by Bell & Hyman, London, and the University of California Press, Berkeley, in nine volumes, along with separate Companion and Index volumes, over the years 1970–1983. Various single-volume abridgements of this text are also available.
The Introduction in volume I provides a scholarly but readable account of "The Diarist", "The Diary" ("The Manuscript", "The Shorthand", and "The Text"), "History of Previous Editions", "The Diary as Literature", and "The Diary as History". The Companion provides a long series of detailed essays about Pepys and his world.
Several detailed studies of Pepys' life are available. Arthur Bryant published his three-volume study in 1933–1938, long before the definitive edition of the diary, but, thanks to Bryant's lively style, it is still of interest. In 1974 Richard Ollard produced a new biography that drew on Latham's and Matthew's work on the text, benefitting from the author's deep knowledge of Restoration politics. Other biographies include: Samuel Pepys : a life, by Stephen Coote (London : Hodder & Stoughton, 2000) and, Samuel Pepys and his world, by Geoffrey Trease (London : Thames and Hudson, 1972).
The most recent general study is by Claire Tomalin, which won the 2002 Whitbread Book of the Year award, the judges calling it a "rich, thoughtful and deeply satisfying" account that unearths "a wealth of material about the uncharted life of Samuel Pepys".
On 1 January 2003 Phil Gyford started a weblog, pepysdiary.com, that serialised the diary one day each evening together with annotations from public and experts alike. In December 2003 the blog won the best specialist blog award in The Guardian's Best of British Blogs.
prize went to Phil Gyford's remarkable Pepys' Diary.
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Samuel Pepys (Commonly pronounced Pepes), secretary to the admiralty in this [James II] and the former reign, was descended from the ancient family of that name, seated at Impington near Cottenham in Cambridgeshire. He was, in the early part of his life, introduced into the service of the state by his kinsman the famous earl of Sandwich. It is well known that the naval history of Charles II. is the most shining part of the annals of his reign; and that the business of the navy was conducted with the utmost regularity and prudence, under Charles and James, by this worthy and judicious person. He first reduced the affairs of the admiralty to order and method; and that method was so just, as to have been a standing model to his successors in his important office. His "Memoirs" relating to the navy is a well written piece; and his copious collection of manuscripts, now remaining, with the rest of his library, at Magdalen College in Cambridge, is an invaluable treasure of naval knowledge. He was far from being a mere man of business; his conversation and address had been greatly refined by travel. He thoroughly understood and practised music; was a judge of painting, sculpture, and architecture; and had more than a superficial knowledge in history and philosophy. His fame among the virtuosi was such, that he was thought a very proper person to be placed at the head of the Royal Society, of which he was some time president. (He was elected president Dec. 1, 1684, and presided two years.) His prints have been already mentioned. His collection of English ballads, in five large folio volumes, begun by Mr. Selden, and carried down to the year 1700, is one of his singular curiosities; as is also the pedigree of Edward IV. from Adam. Ob. 26 May, 1703. See more of him in Evelyn's "Numismata," p. 291.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1775.