3 March 1670
3 March 1670
I beg you earnestly to believe that nothing but the sorrow and distraction I have been in by the death of my wife, increased by the suddenness with which it pleased God to surprise me therewith, after a voyage so full of health and content, could have forced me to so long a neglect of my private concernments; this being, I do assure you, the very first day that my affliction, together with my daily attendance on other public occasions of his Majesty’s, has suffered me to apply myself to the considering any part of my private concernments; among which, that of my doing right to you is no small particu-lar: and therefore, as your charity will, I hope, excuse me for my not doing it sooner, so I pray you to accept now, as late as it is, my hearty thanks for your multiplied kindness in my late affair at Aldeburgh; and in particular, your courteous pro-viding of your own house for my reception, had I come down; the entertainment you were also pleased to prepare for me, together with your other great pains and charges in the pre-serving that interest which you had gained, in reference to his Royal Highness’s and my Lord Howard’s desire on my behalf: in all which I can give you good assurance, that not only his Royal Highness retains a thankful memory of your endeavours to serve him, but I shall take upon me the preserving it so with him, that it may be useful to you when you shall have any occasion for asking his favour. The like I dare promise you from my Lord Howard, when he shall return; and both from them and myself make this kindness of yours, and the rest of those gentlemen of the town who were pleased to concur with you, as advantageous both to yourself and them, and to the Corporation also, as if the business had succeeded to the best of our wishes: and this I assure you, whether I shall ever here-after have the honour of serving them in Parliament or not, having no reason to receive anything with dissatisfaction in this whole matter, saving the particular disrespect which our noble master, the Duke of York, suffered from the beginning to the end, from Mr Duke and Captain Shipman, who, I doubt not, may meet with a time of seeing their error therein. But I am extremely ashamed to find myself so much outdone by you in kindness, by your not suffering me to know the expense which this business has occasioned you; which I again entreat you to let me do, esteeming your pains, without that of your charge, an obligation greater than I can foresee opportunity of requiting, though I shall by no means omit to endeavour it. So with a repetition of my hearty acknowledgments of all your kindness, with my service to yourself and lady, and all my worthy friends about you,
I remain, your obliged friend and humble servant,
This letter from Pepys to Thomas Elliot provides us with some idea of the impact Elizabeth Pepys’s death had had on her husband. However, we know from a codicil to Pepys’s will added in May 1703 that his relationship with Mary Skinner, who became his housekeeper and apparently his common-law wife, had begun thirty-three years earlier — that is, in or around 1670.
The letter also thanks Elliot for his assistance in Pepys’s attempt to be selected as Parliamentary candidate for Aldeburgh. It seems a faction in Aldeburgh, led by a Mr Duke and Captain Shipman, had opposed Pepys’s ambitions and as a result insulted the Duke of York. This was an inevitable matter of concern to Pepys too, since he was loyal to the King’s brother and remained so when James succeeded in 1685 with drastic consequences for Pepys when James was deposed in 1688.
In that letter to Elliot, Pepys makes it clear how ashamed he was Elliot had gone to expense on his behalf. Pepys was extremely conscious of patronage and how the game was played. It was, after all, exactly how he had come to be where he was at the time. He had now reached a position where he was a source of patronage himself.