"Thanks be to God. Since my leaving the drinking of wine, I do find myself much better, and do mind my business better, and do spend less money, and less time lost in idle company. "
Samuel Pepys was born on 23 February 1633, in Salisbury Court, off Fleet Street. His father, John, was a tailor, his mother Margaret Kite was the sister of a Whitechapel butcher and Samuel was the fifth of eleven children. The Pepyses were country people who, from the thirteenth century onwards had held land around Cottenham in Cambridgeshire, including the manor of Impington. In 1618 Paulina Pepys married a brother of the 1st Earl of Manchester, Sir Sydney Montagu, who in 1627 acquired the house and estate of Hinchingbrooke, near Huntingdon.
Samuel attended the Grammar School at Huntingdon, whose ex-pupils included not only Oliver Cromwell but also Edward Montagu, the young squire of Hinchingbrooke. Edward Montagu, eight years older than Samuel, inherited the Hinchingbrooke estate from his father, Sir Sydney, in 1644. Samuel Pepys returned to London after the civil war and entered St Paul's School. He took his bachelor's degree in 1654 and entered the service of Edward Montagu as his secretary and agent in London.
By 1655 Pepys had married the fifteen year old daughter of a Huguenot exile, Elizabeth St Michel. His knowledge of shorthand, his political connections through Montagu (now Earl of Sandwich and First Lord of the Admiralty, having brought the King back from exile), and his subsequent government post as one of the principal clerks of the Royal Navy administration, gave him power and moderate wealth. His love of order and efficiency made him a man of some importance and he proudly and successfully addressed the Commons on naval matters. His speech to the Commons on 05 March 1668 pleased him enormously.
On 01 January 1660, Pepys began to keep The Diary. He recorded his daily life for almost ten years. By the time The Diary ended in the spring of 1669, Pepys' professional success was well established. He was the acknowledged ‘right hand of the Navy’, master of an elegant household, owner of a coach and pair, and a man rich enough to retire and live in comfort, if not in abundance.
He took on many further administrative and advisory roles, became a Member of Parliament - sitting for Castle Rising, Norfolk, 1673-9 and for Harwich in 1679 and 1685-7, served as Master of Trinity House, gathered a collection of books and manuscripts, became President of the Royal Society in 1684 and had learned friends in many disciplines. In 1679 he was forced to resign from the Admiralty and was sent to the Tower of London on a charge of selling naval secrets to the French. The charge was subsequently dropped.
By 1701, he was in failing health and moved in with Will Hewer in Clapham. Will Hewer had been one of Pepys' manservants, and later Pepys's clerk, before embarking on an administrative career of his own. He was ultimately the executor of Pepys’ estate. Pepys died in Clapham on 26 May 1703 and is buried at St Olave's Church, London.
The Concise Pepys is published by Wordsworth Editions.
TITLES BY SAMUEL PEPYS