The Public Record Office in London is putting on a costumed reading of excerpts from Pepys’ diary on 13th February including music and a chance to look at the office’s Pepys documents. There’s also an exhibition running from 5th February to 31st May. More details here.


First Reading

D. QuidnuncGurliaci  •  Link

We'll need some volunteer reviewers!

Sorry -- can't make it (although plane fares to London are temptingly cheap this time of year . . .)

Perhaps anyone who goes could report back to us on what it was like, what seemed interesting and what was surprising. I'd be particularly interested in anything the documents might reveal about Pepys.

PHE  •  Link

The title of the 'reading' on the webpage is "The Bawdy Civil Servant". I think it is a shame to see Pepys presented yet again as just a bawdy joke character from 17th century London - like someone from a Shakspeare comedy. This just serves to devalue the quality of his writing and achievements. Yes he had a more vulgar side to his character, as most people do, and yes - he had sex! But this is just one facet of his varied, interesting and intelligent character. A similarly honest diary of many politicians today (Alan Clark, Edwina Curry - Anne Widdecombe?)could equally be portrayed as just bawdy in 300 years time.

Glyn  •  Link

The Museum of London is also putting on an exhibition entitled "Pepys' London" sometime in the Spring.

Glyn  •  Link

Letter of 30 March 1660

I finally went to the exhibition of documents at the Public Record Office (see website above) which includes on display the earliest known letter from Pepys.

It is dated 30 March 1660, and was sent to Robert Blackburne, Secretary of the Admiralty, on behalf of Lord Montagu. The letter takes up about half of a sheet that is slightly smaller than a sheet of typing paper, and the ink has faded from black to brown. It is signed: "from the Swiftsure, Your most obliged servant, Sam Pepys" (With no title following his name; it might be Saml. rather than Sam, but it isn't Samuel).

The contents seem to be just routine officework giving someone a warrant for a position on the ship the "Wexford", but I was quite affected by seeing it (I forget the name of the person).

Graphologists may be interested to know that the paper is unlined but Pepys' handwriting is neat and still perfectly legible: his lines slope up slightly from left to right, and the writing also tilts slightly forward.

PS: Quidnunc's criticism of the title of the exhibition has been responded to and the exhibition is now entitled just: "The Civil Servant".

Phil  •  Link

That's great Glyn - I've suddenly realised how wonderful it would be to see an object, such as a letter, that Pepys mentions in the diary. It must suddenly make all this seem much more real.

David Quidnunc  •  Link

That's PHE's criticism, Glyn
but I second it, for the most part, although I'm not sure I care too much about the reputation of someone dead 300 years. And Pepys has other things on his mind, wherever he is (Purgatory, I suspect).

Hhomeboy  •  Link


As you evidently intended, this site is puritanically minimalist in its presentation values...might I suggest loosening up and posting a section with scans or photos of prominent or signal passages from Pepys' manuscript pages (12 per yr.) and, as the diary progresses, letters, etc. (available I'm sure thru the good graces of the Pepys librarian at Magdalene)...there are some great letters to and from Evelyn from their 1660's correspondence...

Phil  •  Link

You're not the only one to suggest this! As yet I don't have any scans of such things, and if I did they would need to be free of copyright for me to post them. Image copyright seems a bit more complicated than that of texts... While a particular item could be copyright-free because it's so old a museum's reproduction of it can be copyright. I'd like clarification of this...

Either way, yes images would be good.

Hhomeboy  •  Link

Great...for starters

The pepys librarian could oblige you with access to phtographing/scans of key passages/pages...I'll e-mail you his assistant's e-mail address.

'remember the manuscript pages at the library are in shorthand!

Roger Miller  •  Link

Pepys documents at the PRO

As I don't live far from Kew I thought I would go over to the Public Records Office and have a look.

There is a display of material from the PRO's collection and currently this includes about half a dozen items related to Pepys. In addition to the letter from the Swiftsure mentioned by Glyn there is a note made by Pepys about the members of a jury at a trial that employs the same shorthand as that used in the diary, a letter from a sea captain about some shells that he sent to Mrs Pepys and Pepys' last will and testament.

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