Samuel Pepys was born on February 23, 1633, the son of a London tailor, and fifth of eleven children.  He first attended the Huntingdon Free School, and then St. Paul's School.  He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1650, but shortly transferred to Magdalene College, Cambridge, graduating B.A. in 1653. 
In 1654, Pepys became secretary to
Sir Edward Montagu, later Earl of Sandwich, a distant relative.  Soon after, Pepys became a clerk of the Exchequer, and married Elizabeth St. Michel in 1655.  In 1660, Pepys was made Clerk of the King's Ships to the Navy Board.
     On January 1, 1660, at the age of 27, Pepys began his Diary.  It was written in  the shorthand system established by Thomas Shelton, and covered nine years not only of Pepys' life, but of London events.  The passages on the Plague (1665-1666), The Great Fire of London (1666), and the arrival of the Dutch fleet (1665-1667) are invaluable firsthand accounts to historians.
     Pepys stopped writing his diary in the spring of 1669—at the age of 36, his eyesight had gotten worse, and he feared losing his sight altogether.  The following 34 years brought him more appointments and acclaim.  Pepys became a Member of Parliament and Secretary of the Admiralty in 1673, and took part in organizing the navy during the war with the Dutch in 1672-74.  In 1679, Pepys was accused of giving naval secrets to the French in the
Popish Plot
, and he was imprisoned in the Tower for six weeks.  Pepys was soon cleared of charges, however, and was reinstated as Secretary to the Admiralty in 1684.   He served as President of the Royal Society from 1684-86, and retired from public service in 1689 at the accession of King William III.
      In 1690, Pepys published his
Memoirs . . . of the Royal Navy
. After this, Pepys spent most of his time building and cataloging a library of his own.  In 1701, when his health began to fail, he moved to Clampham, where he completed his collection of 3,000 books.  When Pepys died on May 26, 1703, his library, including his Diary, was bequeathed to his nephew John Jackson, and subsequently to Magdalen College—under the condition that the contents would never be altered.  Samuel Pepys was laid to rest in St. Olave’s Church, Hart Street.  The Diary was first partially deciphered in 1819, and published in 1825.

  • Barber, Richard.  Samuel Pepys Esquire.
               London: George Bell & Sons/National Portrait Gallery, 1970.
  • Coote, Stephen.  Samuel Pepys : A Life.
               London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2000.
  • Emden, Cecil S.  Pepys Himself.
               London, New York: Oxford University Press, 1963.
  • Heath, Helen Truesdell, ed.  The letters of Samuel Pepys and his family circle.
               Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955.
  • Howarth, R.G. , ed. Letters and the Second Diary of Samuel Pepys.
               London: J. M. Dent, 1932.
  • Hunt, Percival.  Samuel Pepys in the Diary.
               Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1958.
  • Latham, Robert & William Matthews, eds. The Diary of Samuel Pepys, 11 vols.
               London: George Bell & Sons, 1970-1983.
  • Mendelsohn, Oscar A. Drinking With Pepys.
               London: Macmillan & Co, 1963.
  • Nicolson, Marjorie Hope. Pepys' Diary and the New Science.
               Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1965.
  • Tanner, J. R. Mr. Pepys; An Introduction to the Diary Together with a Sketch of his Later Life.
               New York: Harcourt Brace, 1925.
  • Tanner, J. R., ed. Private Correspondence And Miscellaneous Papers Of Samuel Pepys 1679-1703. 2 vols.
               London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd. 1926.
  • Taylor, Ivan E. Samuel Pepys. Updated ed.
               Boston: Twayne Publishers, c1989.
  • Tomalin, Claire.  Samuel Pepys : The Unequalled Self.
               New York: Alfred A. Knopf : Distr. by Random House, 2002.

Article Citation:

Jokinen, Anniina. "Life of Samuel Pepys." Luminarium.
             1 October 2003. [Date when you accessed the page].

Pepys | Biography | Works | Resources | Essays | 18th C. Lit


Site copyright ©1996-2003 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.
Page created by Anniina Jokinen on
1 October 2003.