In his diary Samuel Pepys often mentioned how much money he had. This graph shows these values over time:

The table below shows the same data.

An additional column shows the value in 2023 pounds in terms of the equivalent purchasing power for goods and services, as shown by the Bank of England’s inflation calculator. It compares the value from its year (e.g. 1660) with the equivalent value in September 2023.

It is hard to compare equivalent values over such a long period. For more see the topic Values today, and further information on the Bank of England’s page.

Date 1660s Pounds 2023 Pounds
40 6,645
40 6,645
40 6,645
80 13,290
100 16,612
100 16,612
100 16,612
100 16,612
120 19,935
200 33,224
200 33,224
150 24,918
200 33,224
240 39,869
300 46,430
350 54,168
500 77,383
600 92,860
500 75,649
500 75,649
530 80,188
530 80,188
530 80,188
650 98,343
650 98,343
687 103,941
680 102,882
679 102,731
660 99,856
630 95,317
650 98,343
640 108,510
640 108,510
670 113,596
700 118,683
726 123,091
719 121,904
700 118,683
730 123,769
750 127,160
760 128,856
717 121,565
770 130,551
800 135,638
858 146,100
890 151,549
900 153,252
908 154,614
930 158,360
951 161,936
1,014 172,664
1,020 173,685
1,203 204,846
1,205 205,187
1,209 205,868
1,349 229,707
1,257 227,384
1,270 229,735
1,300 235,162
1,400 253,251
1,400 253,251
1,450 262,296
1,900 343,698
2,164 391,454
2,180 394,348
4,000 723,575
4,400 795,933
4,600 891,839
5,000 969,390
5,200 1,008,166
5,200 1,008,166
5,600 1,085,717
5,700 1,105,105
6,200 1,202,044
6,200 1,202,044
6,800 1,349,225
6,700 1,329,383
6,900 1,369,066

4 Annotations

Second Reading

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Every time Pepys thanks God for his latest increase in wealth, I'm reminded of these two quatrains by William Blake, put together by Dante Gabriel Rossetti:


Since all the riches of this world
May be gifts from the devil and earthly kings,
I should suspect that I worshipped the devil
If I thanked my God for worldly things.

The countless gold of a merry heart,
The rubies and pearls of a loving eye,
The idle man never can bring to the mart
Nor the cunning hoard up in his treasury.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Pepys did receive some fixed incomes, and at the beginning of the Diary he lives on the one from being the Clerk of the Acts while he 'learned the ropes', so to speak:

"During the period of the Diary his salary as Clerk of the Acts was £350 a year; while in 1665 he was appointed Treasurer of the Tangier Commission, and from 1665 to 1667 he was Surveyor-General of Victualling with an additional £300 a year ..."…
Title: Samuel Pepys and the Royal Navy
Author: J. R. (Joseph Robson) Tanner
Release Date: February 24, 2015 [eBook #48353]
Page 28

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

“Thus ends this year, to my great joy, in this manner. I have raised my estate from 1300/. in this year to 4400/.. I have got myself greater interest, I think, by my diligence, and my employments encreased by that of Treasurer for Tangier, and Surveyour of the Victualls.
"It is true we have gone through great melancholy because of the great plague, and I put to great charges by it, by keeping my family long at Woolwich, and myself and another part of my family, my clerks, at my charge at Greenwich, and a mayde at London; but I hope the King will give us some satisfaction for that.
"But now the plague is abated almost to nothing, and I intending to get to London as fast as I can. My family, that is my wife and maids, having been there these two or three weeks.
"The Dutch war goes on very ill, by reason of lack of money; having none to hope for, all being put into disorder by a new Act that is made as an experiment to bring credit to the Exchequer, for goods and money to be advanced upon the credit of that Act.
"I have never lived so merrily (besides that I never got so much) as I have done this plague time, by my Lord Bruncker’s and Captain Cocke’s good company, and the acquaintance of Mrs. Knipp, Coleman and her husband, and Mr. Laneare, and great store of dancings we have had at my cost (which I was willing to indulge myself and wife) at my lodgings.” Samuel Pepys (1633 - 1703) – Diary, 1 January, 1665/6

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Was Pepys corrupt? This topic is frequently argued throughout the Diary.
There is general agreement he should be judged by the standards of his times, and the Civil Service had yet to be invented. This example comes from 60 years before the Diary, but explains "the system" such as it was:

While Jacobean politicians periodically attacked corruption and venality in government, it was taken for granted that money was an essential lubricant of the system, and that the highest offices in the land frequently went to the highest bidders.
Key components of the civil administration were run as personal fiefdoms and traded as though they were private property.

A prime example was the prothonotaryship, or chief clerkship, of the court of King’s Bench, which in 1603 was occupied by John Roper. This office was reckoned to generate a net annual profit of around £4,000 (roughly £1,400,000 in 2021), equivalent to the income of a reasonably affluent peer.

By dint of purchasing reversionary grants of the prothonotaryship, the Roper family had monopolized this role for more than a century, growing rich in the process.
John Roper, the fourth member of his family to hold the post, had been in office since 1573, and was now aged about 69.

So Pepys' wealth growing by £4,000 in one year 60 years later would not be unique, nor necessarily attract attention ... his house, clothes and coach were signs he was smart enough to make his position and the system work for him.
Problems would arise if he upset someone, and the Committee of the Treasury decided to make an example of him. In which case he better be able to prove he had made decisions "in the King's interest", which we know was a conscious justification for Pepys, at least at the beginning of his wealth accumulation.

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