Samuel Pepys Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Samuel Pepys (peeps), born on February 23, 1633, was a man of wide interests and varied affairs: an inveterate playgoer and a minor patron of the arts, a conscientious husband and householder, a responsible public official, and a friend (sometimes a self-acknowledged flatterer) of the great and the powerful. All this is known from his Diary, his own candid and unaffected portrayal of himself. Yet the Diary, as detailed and as thorough as it is for its own specified time, deals with only nine years (1660-1669) in a life that lasted a full seventy.

Although not much of importance had happened to Samuel Pepys before he began his famous project, his many affairs continued long after poor eyesight forced him to give up his record in 1669. Twice, in the period between the ending of the Diary and the quiet ending of his life in 1703, his fortunes fell and rose again. Although the full publication of the Diary in 1849 transformed him posthumously into a literary figure, it should be remembered that he was not—either to himself or to his contemporaries—primarily a man of letters. He was what would be called in modern terminology a career Admiralty official. He served twenty-eight years in the Admiralty Department, was twice secretary of the Admiralty, and was acknowledged, after the “Bloodless Revolution” ended his career in 1688, as the foremost authority on naval matters in all England.

His Admiralty career began significantly enough with the restoration of the Stuarts in 1660. His life up to that time had been a genteel struggle with poverty, for his family, though well connected, was, by his own admission, “never very considerable.” He had gone through Magdelene College, Cambridge University, as a scholarship student (receiving a B.A. in 1653 and an M.A. in 1660), had married in 1655 the fifteen-year-old daughter of a penniless French expatriate, and had lived for some time under the patronage of a wealthy cousin, Sir Edward Montagu. This nobleman, later the first earl of Sandwich, was a staunch supporter of Charles II and played no small part in the triumph of the royal cause. As his good fortune swelled with the resurgence of the Stuarts, so the good fortune of Samuel Pepys increased. Pepys’s first official appointment was to a minor position in the Exchequer, but on July 13, 1660, he moved to the Navy Office, becoming, later that same year, clerk of the privy seal and a justice of the peace.

This triumphal year is covered by the Diary. During the remaining eight years of that chronicle, the triumphs continued. Pepys’s finances improved. Able to afford books, he began the collection of his famous library (now...

(The entire section is 1105 words.)

Samuel Pepys Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Samuel Pepys (peeps) was born on February 23, 1633, in Salisbury Court, close to St. Bride’s in Fleet Street, London, England. He was the fifth of eleven children of John Pepys, a tailor, and Margaret Kight, of whom little is known except that she was a washmaid and the sister of a butcher. Samuel grew up in a sturdy, middle-class Puritan family that boasted connections to the wealthy and powerful Mountagu family of Huntingdonshire. Of Pepys’s childhood there is almost no record except for rare references in The Diary of Samuel Pepys (1825), which indicate that Pepys acquired his love of music from his father, that he was introduced to the theater—another lifelong passion—before the Civil War closed all the theaters for a time, and that he and his brother Tom spent some time in the country, probably for health reasons.

The Diary reveals that Pepys attended Huntingdon Grammar School some time before 1645 or 1646 when, evidence suggests, he returned to London and entered St. Paul’s School, which was thena staunchly Puritan institution. At St. Paul’s, Pepys came under the influence of Dr. Samuel Cromleholme, a fine scholar and bibliophile, with whom Pepys continued to correspond long after he left school—even up to the time of the Diary. From St. Paul’s, Pepys went to Cambridge, where he established residence at Magdalene College shortly after his eighteenth birthday and became a student of Samuel Morland, who had acquired an impressive reputation as mathematician and Latinist, as cryptographer and engineer, as historian and inventor. The influence of Cromleholme and Morland on Pepys is evident in the Diary, which records Pepys’s lifetime interest in books, his membership in the Royal Society and fascination with science, and his passion for classical literature.

In 1654, Pepys took his degree at Cambridge and returned to London. By December, 1655, he was married to Elizabeth St. Michel, a beautiful, penniless fifteen-year-old of French and Anglo-Irish parentage. By this point, Pepys was also employed by his aristocratic cousin, Sir Edward Mountagu, as some kind of steward. When Pepys joined his cousin’s staff, Mountagu was already firmly ensconced in the inner circle of the government of Oliver Cromwell, the English soldier and member of Parliament, and was thus able to assist the young and ambitious Pepys, who...

(The entire section is 976 words.)

Samuel Pepys Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

With all of its richness, variety, and detail, the one singular element that unifies The Diary of Samuel Pepys into an intriguing whole is the portrait that it paints of Samuel Pepys himself. Clearly a man who embodied most of the beliefs and confusions of his age, he is the ultimate Restoration man, and in his personal narrative he illustrates and exemplifies the contradictions and confusion, the faith and intellectual curiosity, the frivolity and practicality of one of England’s most interesting decades.

Samuel Pepys Biography

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Samuel Pepys was born in London, England on February 23, 1633. One of eleven children, he ended up becoming the eldest of only three who...

(The entire section is 456 words.)