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...
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