26 March 1670

Navy Office

26 March 1670

Honoured Sir

I have a sudden occasion offered me of asking your friendship, as well as a full assurance that I shall. ‘Tis this: Mr Ascew, Clerk of Trinity House, is dead. I have a brother of my own (John Pepys), whose relation to me could not tempt me to this motion, were it not that his sobriety, diligence, and education, (being a scholar, and I think in every respect qualified for the employment in a very different proportion to what Mr Ascew’s education could render him), doth lead me to think it a service to the Corporation to offer him to them. I aim not so much at the salary for him, as the opportunity, by this means, of introducing him to that unit of business for which I have for some time designed him. He is about thirty years of age, unmarried; his life that of a scholar’s, as having resided in the University till, having past three or four years Master of Arts, I called him thence some time since to my own tuition, and that acquaintance with business which my trade could lead him to. Now, Sir, knowing your influence upon the Society of Trinity House, I pray you so far to trust my report in this matter, as to think it worthy of your countenance by a word or two between this and Wednes-day next, either to the body of that house, or such members of it as you think may be most operative, in conjunction with that assistance which your recommendation shall receive from my Lord Sandwich, Lord Craven, and my brethren of this office, who have promised me to concern themselves thoroughly in this matter, besides a letter which his Royal Highness was pleased to give me on the same behalf.

Your particular favour herein shall be owned with all possible expressions of thankfulness by

Your obedient Servant,

S. Pepys

One of Pepys’s greatest virtues was his unfailing sense of loyalty to his own extended family. In this letter Pepys writes to John Evelyn’s father-in-law, Sir Richard Browne. Browne had been Charles II’s envoy to the French court during the Interregnum. Naturally, Pepys had come to know him through Evelyn but also in Browne’s involvement with Trinity House.

London’s Trinity House had begun life as a guild of seamen. By the seventeenth century it had become responsible for navigational aids around the coast, such as lights and buoys. Trinity House provided pilots and supervised the certification of sailing masters. It worked closely with the Navy Board, and Pepys, like most of his colleagues, was a member. In fact, Sandwich had been made Master of Trinity House in 1661. Sir Richard Browne donated land to Trinity House to build almshouses at Deptford in 1671, and would himself become Master from 1672-3. Pepys, having heard that the clerk of Trinity House was dead, took the opportunity to recommend his brother John on the basis of his ‘sobriety, diligence, and education’. Pepys, who had secured referees from other influential sources including the Duke of York, was of course playing the game. His private opinion of John Pepys was not quite the same. ‘I fear he will never make a good speaker — nor, I fear, any general good scholar’ but ‘he seems sober, and that pleases me’ (Diary 17 October 1666). In 1667 he had considered sending John to Cambridge and making him go into the church. The plans came to nothing and evidently the Trinity House vacancy, Pepys decided, was the opportunity he had been waiting for. He dashed off a letter to Browne, and also sent one to John insisting that he make himself available for interview the following week.

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