Samuel Pepys was born on February 23, 1633 into a family of limited means, but through wit and political skill became one of the most prominent politicians of his age. He attended St. Paul's School in London and afterwards departed for Cambridge where he gained a reputation as a great drinker. He was married at the age of twenty-two to a fifteen year-old French girl, Elizabeth, with whom he lived whilst serving under Edward Montagu, later the First Earl of Sandwich. It was while working for Montagu that he began his diary, which was to become the most important historical record of Restoration Britain. However, it was written in code (presumably to disguise dubious passages detailing his onanism and the like), and was not deciphered until the nineteenth century.
Pepys began work at the Admiralty where he excelled, setting himself to work with great vigour. His tact and intelligence soon won him the favour of his employers. He became a Member of Parliament and implemented many far-reaching reforms, including the Ship Building Act, which restored the British naval ascendancy which had been threatened by the French and Dutch.
Pepys lived through two great tragedies: the Great Fire of London and the Black Death. He records the suffering of London during the Plague and is characteristically self-deprecating at the part he played in saving the Admiralty from the Great Fire. He writes with an effective immediacy and his diary is a work of great literary accomplishment as well as being a valuable historical document. Pepys discontinued his diaries after the death of his wife lead to a gradual failing in health, and died in London on May 26th 1703. He counted amongst his friends Dryden, Pope and Sir Christopher Wren.
|The Samuel Pepys Page Contains a detailed biography, diary extracts and some links
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