Tales from an author

The Life and Diaries of Samuel Pepys – my new book is published

Here is an extract from the book

1 Blessed be God 1633-1660

Samuel Pepys was born on February 23 1633, at Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, in London, the son of John Pepys, a tailor, and his wife, Margaret (nee Kite). Within a few years, the autocratic rule of Charles I (reigned 1625-1649) sparked the English Civil War, which in turn led to the seizure of power by Oliver Cromwell. At the age of 15, Pepys witnessed the execution of the monarch in 1649. Pepys was educated at Huntingdon Grammar School – where Cromwell had once been a pupil – and St Paul’s School in London. Pepys moved to Magdalene College, at Cambridge University, in 1651, and left three years later with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After university, Pepys worked in the household of Edward Montagu, a cousin of his father. The subsequent advancement of Pepys owed a great deal to the patronage of Edward Montagu, who would be created the first Earl of Sandwich in 1660. Edward was the great great grandfather of John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, after whom the sandwich was named in the eighteenth century.
In 1655 Pepys, aged 22, married Elizabeth St Michel, who was only 14. Elizabeth had been born at Bideford, in Devon, into a French Huguenot family. Pepys began his career as a civil servant, probably in 1656, by taking a post as clerk to George Downing (who gave his name to Downing Street) at the Exchequer. Samuel’s marriage to Elizabeth was soon under strain, causing a short separation, and he was also troubled by a kidney stone, which was successfully removed in an operation during 1658. Pepys travelled abroad for the first time in 1659, sailing to the Baltic Sea, where he delivered letters from the British republican government to Montagu, who was mediating in a war between Denmark and Sweden.
Pepys started to write a diary, using shorthand, on the first day of 1660, at the age of 26. For nearly a decade, Samuel kept a detailed account of his activities, and thoughts, in the journal – this being the word that he used. Very few days were omitted, although Pepys often wrote up entries in retrospect. The inaugural diary entry has Pepys surveying the position at the turning of the year. There is a combination of the personal and political, which was to remain a constant theme of Pepys’ diary. The Rump was the name given to the remnants of the Long Parliament, elected in 1640, following the purge that removed opponents of Oliver Cromwell in 1648. Theophila Turner was a relative of Samuel.

January 1 1660 (Lord’s Day)
Blessed be God, at the end of the last year I was in very good health, without any sense of my old pain but upon taking of cold. I lived in Axe Yard, having my wife and servant Jane, and no more in family than us three. My wife, after the absence of her terms for seven weeks, gave me hopes of her being with child, but on the last day of the year she has them again.

The condition of the State was thus. The Rump, after being disturbed by my Lord Lambert, was lately returned to sit again. The officers of the army all forced to yield. Lawson lie still in the River and George Monck is with his army in Scotland. Only my Lord Lambert is not yet come in to the Parliament; nor is it expected that he will, without being forced to it. The new Common Council of the City does speak very high; and has sent to Monck their sword-bearer to acquaint him with their desires for a free and full Parliament, which is at present the desires and the hopes and expectation of all. 22 of the old secluded members having been at the House-door the last week to demand entrance, but it was denied them; and it is believed that they nor the people will be satisfied till the House be filled.

My own private condition very handsome, and esteemed rich, but indeed very poor; besides my goods of my house, and my office, which at present is somewhat uncertain. Mr Downing master of my office.

This morning (we lying lately in the garret) I rose, put on my suit with great skirts, having not lately worn any other clothes but them. Went to Mr Gunning’s chapel at Exeter House, where he made a very good sermon upon these words: That in the fullness of time God sent his Son, made of a woman, &c, showing that by “made under the law” is meant his circumcision, which is solemnised this day. Dined at home in the garret, where my wife dressed the remains of a turkey, and in the doing of it she burned her hand. I stayed at home all the afternoon, looking over my accounts; then went with my wife to my father’s, and in going observed the great posts which the City have set up at the Conduit in Fleet Street. Supped at my father’s, where in came Mrs Theophila Turner and Madam Morrice, and supped with us. After that my wife and I went home with them, and so to our own home.

In the entry above Pepys referred to there being three people in his family, as servants were often considered to be family at that time. Samuel’s domestic routines with Elizabeth featured in the diary, and trouble with servants was a recurring theme. Pepys obviously enjoyed socialising with family and friends, as drinking, eating, and visits to the theatre were chronicled, along with his progress in learning to sing and play musical instruments. Pepys often writes about “my Lord”, with this phrase referring to the Earl of Sandwich.

March 9 1660
To my Lord at his lodging, and came to Westminster with him in the coach, with Mr Dudley with him, and he in the Painted Chamber walked a good while; and I telling him that I was willing and ready to go with him to sea, he agreed that I should, and advised me what to write to Mr Downing about it, which I did at my office, that by my Lord’s desire I offered that my place might for a while be supplied by Mr Moore, and that I and my security should be bound by the same bond for him. I went and dined at Mr Crew’s, where Mr Hawly comes to me, and I told him the business and showed him the letter promising him £20 a year, which he liked very well of. I did the same to Mr Moore, which he also took for a courtesy.

In the afternoon by coach, taking Mr Butler with me to the Navy Office, about the £500 for my Lord, which I am promised to have tomorrow morning. Then by coach back again, and at Whitehall at the Council Chamber spoke with my Lord and got him to sign the acquittance for the £500, and he also told me that he had spoke to Mr Blackburne to put off Mr Creed and that I should come to him for direction in the employment. After this Mr Butler and I to Harper’s, where we sat and drank for two hours till ten at night; the old woman she was drunk and began to talk foolishly in commendation of her son James.

Home and to bed. All night troubled in my thoughts how to order my business upon this great change with me that I could not sleep, and being overheated with drink I made a promise the next morning to drink no strong drink this week, for I find that it makes me sweat and puts me quite out of order. This day it was resolved that the writs do go out in the name of the Keepers of the Liberty, and I hear that it is resolved privately that a treaty be offered with the King. And that Monck did check his soldiers highly for what they did yesterday.


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