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Samuel Pepys: A Life
     

Samuel Pepys: A Life

by Stephen Coote
 

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Best known for diaries that chronicle in brilliant detail his life and times during the turbulence of Restoration England, Samuel Pepys was an extraordinary man in an extraordinary time--member of Parliament, secretary of the admiralty, political insider, friend of Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren. Set against such events as the Great Fire of London, the Great Plague

Overview

Best known for diaries that chronicle in brilliant detail his life and times during the turbulence of Restoration England, Samuel Pepys was an extraordinary man in an extraordinary time--member of Parliament, secretary of the admiralty, political insider, friend of Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren. Set against such events as the Great Fire of London, the Great Plague, and the return of Charles II to the throne, Stephen Coote's full-bodied portrait of Pepys brings the man, and his remarkable era, exuberantly to life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author of the greatest diary in the English language is hard to compete with, but since Pepys kept his diary for only 10 years (eye trouble ended it), Coote is otherwise on his own. Although he cannot match the diarist's racy prose, Coote brings off Pepys's turbulent life colorfully and with sympathy. As biographer of Charles I, Coote had consulted the 1660-1669 diaries of Pepys and, for good reason, could not put the volumes down. As Clerk of the Works, Pepys was the efficient bureaucrat who administered the navy and managed, in the process, to be involved in nearly every major event in post-Cromwell Britain and to know everyone who counted, either as ally or enemy. Shrewd and nimble, he was exhaustingly convivial, constantly curious and calculatingly ambitious. As Coote writes, "Public office was indeed a way to private riches." Little of it failed to make his diary. The reader lives through the Great Plague, the Great Fire of London, the restoration of the king and the wars for regional supremacy. But Pepys lived on until 1703, 34 years after the diary stopped, battling to keep Charles II in power and clinging to his own perquisites as long as he could. As a boy he had pushed through the crowd to watch the execution of Charles I. Later, as a toppled officeholder "so dangerously able and so loud in the assertion of his own virtues," he nearly lost his own head. Coote informs as he entertains. One even learns such things as what "umble pie" really was. No academic read, Samuel Pepys will appeal to a broad, and broad-minded, audience. 16 pages of illus. not seen by PW. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) may be most widely remembered for his six-volume diary, a candid and scrupulously detailed record of his life and work from January 1, 1660, until May 31, 1669. Less widely remembered is that from 1673, when he became secretary to the Lord High Admiral of England, until 1689, when the "Glorious Revolution" forced his resignation, Pepys typified that "small oligarchy of professional administrators who, with direct access to the King and full responsibility under the royal will, combined in themselves a heady mixture of administrative power and political influence." It was Pepys, argues Coote (Royal Survivor: The Life of Charles II, LJ 1/00), who, with "his energy, his desire for order, his experience and innovation... would make the Admiralty into the unique, ruthlessly controlling force of the entire naval service." Although the author enlivens this biography with vivid excerpts from Pepys's eyewitness accounts of the Restoration, the Plague, and the Great Fire, the "life" Coote focuses on and makes even more fascinating is that of Pepys the forerunner of that unique bulwark of British government: the civil servant. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Robert C. Jones, Central Missouri State Univ., Warrensburg Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Based in large part on Pepys' famous diary, this biography tells of his humble childhood as the son of a tailor, and his career and success leading him to positions in Parliament and the Admiralty. Coote (an author) tells of Pepys' private life, including a picture of his relationship with his wife (and, his relationships with other women as well). Pepys' more conventional friendships with actors, scientists, and statesmen are also detailed. Sixteen pages of black and white illustrations are included. First published by Hodder and Stroughton in 2000.. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312239299
Publisher:
Palgrave Macmillan
Publication date:
05/11/2001
Edition description:
1ST PALGRA
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
6.43(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.23(d)

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


Educating Samuel


He elbowed his way through the crowd and looked on the scene with the alert, life-hungry eyes of a boy of fifteen. It was difficult to see very much, but in the far distance, beyond the immense press of bodies, he could just glimpse the mounted soldiers ranged around the scaffold by the Palace of Whitehall. Behind them, the officials and the instruments of execution were all in place. So much was proper, for this was a moment of the highest solemnity, the 'saddest sight that ever England saw? After seven years of civil war the people had finally brought their king to trial and ordered his death. Clerks, their hands numb in the bitter January air, prepared to make notes for the benefit of posterity. Others prayed. The executioner and his assistants, hideously disguised in thick frieze coats, false hair and false beards, looked on as King Charles I prepared himself to speak.

    A great silence fell on the crowd as Charles claimed that, far from being guilty of bringing bloodshed and ruin to his country, he was dying as 'a Martyr to the People'. The boy, like practically everybody else, was unable to hear what he said. Nor did he greatly care. What were the excuses of a tyrant to him? Instead, he contented himself with watching as the axe fell and the King's severed head was lifted up by its hair to be displayed to the groaning crowd. Justice of a sort had been done, and now, as the multitude dispersed, the bright-eyed boy scampered back to school with a phrase from the Bible echoing in his head: 'the memory of the wicked shall rot'. He, at least,was exultant. He had watched history in the making. Monarchy was at an end. His own people had won the fight for freedom, and Cromwell and his men were casting the world anew.

    Such piety and political tumult had surrounded the boy for as long as he could remember. His parents were God-fearing Puritan people of modest means, to whom he had been born on 23 February 1633, in a room above their tailoring business in Salisbury Court, a thoroughfare that ran down from Fleet Street to the north bank of the Thames. He was the fifth of eleven children brought into the world by John and Margaret Pepys, and eight days after his birth he had been carried to St Bride's church across the way and there baptised Samuel according to the Anglican rite. As custom dictated, he was then put out to a wet-nurse, one Goody Lawrence, in the little Middlesex village of Kingsland, an area where his mother had relatives. The infant Samuel survived the manifold risks of illness that attended the early days of every seventeenth-century child and soon returned from Kingsland to his parents' house in London, the city that was to be the focus of his entire life.

    For families like the Pepyses, London was a dark, crowded, dirty city, the cheek-by-jowl houses being 'the scurviest things in the world ... nothing but wood and plaster and nasty little windows, with but one casement to open, the storeys were low and widened one over another, all awry and in appearance ready to fall'. A thick cloud of pollution hung constantly above this dark and ramshackle capital.


The smoke from innumerable manufacturers' furnaces and family hearths, warmed by sulphurous sea coal, created so lethal a cloud that almost half who 'perished in London die of phthisical and pulmonary distempers'. The inhabitants were 'never free from coughs and importunate rheumatisms, spitting of impostumated and corrupt matter'. Summer often brought the plague, and always the terrible, gut-wrenching smells of unswept stables and the noxious vats of soapmakers, tanners and the alum manufacturers whose product was so essential to finishing the cloth Samuel's father made into suits.

    Some of the more important London streets were paved, a number more were cobbled, but many were 'so miry and foul as is not only very noisome, dangerous and inconvenient to the inhabitants thereof but to all the King's liege people'. All sorts of rubbish clotted the central drains of these streets and was left saturated and stinking with the rain that sheered off the gutterless roofs. Hackney carriages, drovers and a myriad other people jostled acrimoniously through these noisy thoroughfares as they went about their business: merchants to the Exchange, lawyers to the Inns of Court, servants to the public conduits. The noise was oppressive too. Horseshoes and iron-clad wheels rattled on the stones. Notoriously foul-mouthed arguments broke out between the drivers of goods vehicles jammed at the crossroads. Street vendors called their wares in raucous voices. Pig gelders blew their horns and, if they were lucky, practised their trade on their screaming victims at the street corners. And, above this din, preachers and fanatics were forever shouting about salvation.

    As Samuel grew into boyhood, he came to see that his father's business was a respectable enough trade and that John Pepys himself was a respectable if unexciting man, labouring timorously in his cutting-room, 'his journeymen sitting about him, each man with his pint of ale and halfpenny loaf before him'. John Pepys was one of those for whom making anything more than a meagre living was a mystery and who looked with dependent eyes on the initiatives of others as he sought solace in the music he loved, as his son was also to do. Although originally from the Fens, John Pepys had laboured for years in London without any conspicuous success, burying eight of his children in the nearby churchyard and receiving little comfort from his wife, a difficult and improvident woman of poorer status than himself. She had once been a laundress and now involved herself in the more extreme forms of Puritanism. Samuel and his surviving siblings — Thomas, Paulina and John — grew up in the atmosphere she helped to create, of moral certainties, strict prohibitions, and a conviction of being the elect of God.

    As his boyhood years passed, the influences that played over Samuel at home became increasingly important in the world outside. A little while before his ninth birthday, events reached their first crisis. After eleven years of personal and increasingly autocratic rule, King Charles had been obliged to call a session of Parliament. Long-nurtured resentments came to a head and the dark and dirty streets around Samuel's home were filled with sudden tumult, a noise that was to resound through his whole life. 'Some hundreds of the citizens came down with swords and staves,' wrote one observer. The crowd was insisting on adding its voice to those Members in the chamber at Westminster who were demanding an end to arbitrary taxation and what they saw as the detestable popery of the King's religious policies. So fierce was the attack that men like Samuel's father were obliged to board up their premises. 'The citizens for the most part shut up their shops,' wrote one observer, 'and all gentlemen provide themselves with arms as in a time of open hostility.' The tension continued to mount when the King failed to arrest the five Members who were leading the opposition against him, and eventually, having won the enmity of the greater part of its citizens, the bewildered monarch fled his capital.

    The months that followed saw turmoil and resolution in London. Whoever held the capital — 'that proud unthankful city' as Royalist propagandists called it — held real power. Samuel was growing up in a capital preparing itself for war. Radical ideas were circulating in the streets and, as conflict became inevitable, a newly constituted Committee of Safety took control of the London militia. Over the following months Samuel became used to the sight of armed and leather-jacketed soldiers swaggering with pikes and muskets through the London streets and training on St George's Fields beside the great defensive wall the citizens had thrown up to protect themselves. Behind that wall, or the 'lines of communication' as they were called, the citizens themselves went about the task of spiritual reformation, setting up righteous government and preparing for the millennium. Zealous Puritans frequently interrupted services that smacked of the popery apparently beloved by the King. They altered the liturgy to suit their prejudices, smashed the faces of the carved stone saints, pulled down altar rails and organs, and instituted a rigid observance of the Sabbath. Sunday, they decreed, was a day to be spent in thoughts of the New Jerusalem. Travel and sports were banned, inns and taverns were closed, and only the milkmaids were allowed to break the silence of the streets as they cried their wares in the early mornings or the late afternoon.

    All of this was agreeable enough to the little family in Salisbury Court, but the growing Samuel and his parents soon had worrying medical problems to bear. In particular, they became increasingly aware that he was suffering from a stone in his urinary system, which was perhaps caused by a high intake of protein and the fact that the flour in the bread the family ate was adulterated with chalk dust to whiten it. Certainly, the stone caused the boy great discomfort for there was a constant and growing pain in his kidneys. In the heat of summer his skin became hot and prickly, while he found it difficult to make water in the cold of winter. On some occasions, when he succeeded, his urine was flecked with blood. As he would write decades later: 'I remember not my life without the pain of the stone in the kidneys (even to the making of bloody water upon any extraordinary motion) till I was about twenty years of age.' It was all most distressing to a bright and intelligent little boy and, in an effort to relieve his anxieties, he was sent for a while with his brother Tom to board with his old wet-nurse in Kingsland. There, in the open fields, Samuel could temporarily forget his problems as he practised shooting with his bow and arrows.

    The stone in Samuel's kidneys was to be the cause of one of the first great crises of his early adult life, but other experiences were also directing the future course of his career. His father's relatives played an important role here, for if John Pepys himself was an ineffectual man it is clear that other members of his family had powers of mind and character that his winning and clever son had' inherited. Across the court from Samuel and his parents, for example, lived another John Pepys, an ageing lawyer whose considerable professional success (he had appeared at the trial of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators) enabled him to keep a coach and a grand establishment at Ashtead in Surrey to which Samuel was occasionally invited, much to his delight. In later life he would recall Ashtead as 'my old place of pleasure'. After all, it was there that the acutely sensuous little boy, full of curiosity, had his first experience of calf-love while walking with a Mrs Hely, talking earnestly to her 'and taking her by the hand, she being a pretty woman.' John Pepys had, besides, a kindly daughter called Jane, who would one day do Samuel a great service.

    Other distinguished members of the Pepys family retained their ties with the Fens. For many generations the Pepyses had been administrators at the abbey of Crowland in Cambridgeshire and had settled in the nearby villages of Cottenham and Impington. Samuel's father had been born in the last, and the boy's great-uncle Talbot Pepys still lived there. This family patriarch had distinguished himself in the law and served as treasurer of the Middle Temple, as well as briefly becoming MP for the borough of Cambridge, whose Recorder he now was. Other Pepyses also resided in the area, and at some time around 1644 young Samuel was sent to live with them, probably at his uncle Robert's house in Brampton.

    There were a number of possible reasons for this move. A Parliamentarian victory in the civil war was very far from certain at this stage, while conditions in London itself were growing increasingly harsh. There were food and fuel shortages, punitive rates of taxation and a worrying sense of economic decline. It was said that 12,000 houses and shops in the city were standing empty, and the Commons were told that 'our rich men are gone because the city is the place of taxes and burdens'. The supplies of the cloth essential to John Pepys's business had been interrupted by the fighting, and unpaid tailors would soon be complaining that 'our trade is so spoiled that no man now will give any credit'. It is hardly surprising that John and Margaret Pepys should want their oldest child at least to be free of these privations, but what is certain is that by moving Samuel out of London and into the area inhabited by his father's relatives the boy was being placed among people deeply committed to Puritanism.

    Nothing could have made this clearer to Samuel than the proximity of his most distinguished relations, the Montagus. Sir Sydney Montagu (who died in 1644) was the youngest brother of the Earl of Manchester and Lord Montagu of Broughton. He was thus a member of one of the richest and most distinguished families in the kingdom, and his house at Hinchinbrooke was an ample tribute to his status. He had entertained Charles I there on a number of occasions, for if Sir Sydney was a Puritan of the most severe type and much given to theological speculation, he was also an ardent Royalist. His legal training had prepared him for distinguished positions at court, but a deep vein of romanticism flowed through this otherwise crusty man. In what was clearly a love match he had married Paulina Pepys, Samuel's great-aunt, and a local woman with no more to recommend her than her merits. The couple had two sons. The first was lost in a tragic accident, but when Paulina herself died young she left behind her a second boy, Edward Montagu, who was to have the most profound influence over Samuel's life.

    Even now Samuel knew that the civil war had thrust Edward into the public arena at a mere eighteen years of age. The conflict that split the nation also divided families, and young Montagu was as wholly given over to the Parliamentarian cause as his father was to the King's. He had married into a distinguished Parliamentarian family and was soon afterwards given a colonel's commission in the Parliamentarian forces of the eastern counties, which were commanded by his cousin, the Earl of Manchester. By July 1644, Edward Montagu had fought in his first set-piece battle at Marston Moor where he so distinguished himself that he was invited to represent his commander-in-chief when the city of York surrendered soon afterwards. It is impossible that young Samuel, grinding away at the Latin exercises set by his master at Huntingdon Grammar School, should not have heard of the exploits of his glamorous cousin, of how he had become a supporter of Cromwell the rising star and of how, newly rewarded with a command, he and Cromwell's New Model Army had played an important part in the defeat of the Royalist forces at the battle of Naseby.

    It was perhaps the confidence inspired by this victory that was responsible for the boy's return to London. Certainly, the city that he came back to on the verge of his adolescence was vibrant, exciting and often wild with religious extremism. 'God is making here a new world,' declared a Scottish divine. This was not an atmosphere that made for consensus, and the London of Pepys's early teenage years was riven with dissent, even the house in Salisbury Close echoing to such debate, one of Samuel's aunts being 'a poor, religious, well meaning, good, humble soul, talking of nothing but God Almighty'. Such talk could be dangerous when taken to extremes and, while the moderate majority in the city sought mild reforms, many others were worried by the growth of sectarianism. There were large numbers of people in London who wanted to turn the world upside-down, and the city was loud with anarchic discussion. Pepys was growing up in a world were the old securities, the old certainties, were under serious threat.

    There were those who asserted that only 'visible saints' should rule the earth and, looking enviously about them, swore that 'there ought to be a community of goods, and the saints should share in the lands and estates of gentlemen and rich men'. The influential Levellers developed such notions especially and urged the abolition of the House of Lords and the monarchy. They had visions of England becoming a republic — a democracy, even — and could write ecstatically that 'the old world is running up like a parchment in the fire'. Although there were still those (and they were perhaps a majority) who knew that fire burns, in this desperately excited and unstable time they were unable to make themselves heard. When they tried to stage a counter-revolution in London they failed miserably, and in the summer of 1647, when Pepys was just fourteen, he watched as the New Model Army marched into the city while the people cheered them to the echo.

    By this time Pepys himself had been a pupil at one of the most eminent institutions in the capital for something over a year. St Paul's School fronted the road on the east side of the old Gothic cathedral, close to where the booksellers offered their wares. It was the largest of London's fee-paying schools (Pepys himself had an exhibition or scholarship) and it was also the most Puritan. The Latin motto placed above the entrance by the great Dean Colet gave an idea of the education offered there. St Paul's School was 'an academy for the instruction of boys in the faith of Christ, the best and greatest, and in good literature'. Its 153 pupils corresponded to the number of fishes caught in the miraculous draught, and their education was designed to equip them with sufficient literary skills to study the Bible and the early Church fathers. By so doing they would begin to know God, to love him, and so prepare themselves for the heavenly gift of faith. Throughout his adult life Pepys was to show himself a man well versed in religious texts and a great connoisseur of sermons, but if St Paul's School helped nourish his faith it also kindled his intense intellectual curiosity.

    A good grounding in classical literature was designed to make the Paul's boys able to perform 'justly, skilfully and magnanimously all the affairs, both public and private, of peace and war'. This was an ideal Pepys's career was to fulfil magnificently. He would mature to become the one man able to run the navy as his country set about expanding its maritime trade, while he would fill his leisure hours with the widest range of intellectual pursuits from the writing of history to an interest in the new science. His teachers were a seminal influence in this. Samuel Cromleholme, the then Sur Master of St Paul's, was a bibliophile and clearly an inspiring man whom Pepys was to honour for his 'abundance of learning and worth', for all that he would later see that he was in part at least a 'conceited pedagogue'. John Langley, the High Master, was on first acquaintance a more awe-inspiring figure who 'struck a mighty respect and fear into his scholars, which however wore off after they were a little used to him'. From such men as these Pepys acquired a deep love of learning and a knowledge of the classics sufficiently lasting for him to be able later to choose a phrase of Cicero's for his personal motto: mens cujusque is est quisque — 'as is the mind, so is the man'.

    None the less the man himself was far from formed, and the early weeks of 1650 were a trying time for the family in Salisbury Court. Samuel's future hung in the balance. Trading conditions in London were now so bad that the Merchant Tailors were attempting to suppress unfortunate rivals such as his father, and John Pepys was obliged to petition the Company for membership and to offer a reasonable sum to 'avoid trouble and molestation'. Money was clearly tight in the Pepys household, and if the talented Samuel was to have a more promising career than his father's, help would have to be sought elsewhere. In February 1650, young Pepys stood before the master and wardens of the Mercers' Company in the hope of winning one of the scholarships to Cambridge that were reserved for promising Paulines. He was on the threshold of a new world and his talent, as it always would, gained him entry to it. Samuel won an exhibition and, in the summer of 1650, he was entered as a sizar at Trinity Hall where he had distant family connections.

    It is probable that he and those around him were thinking of a career in the law, but events did not take such a predictable course. With the death of the King, the country at large was in the grip of the Commonwealth men, and Puritan zealots nurtured ever fiercer dreams of a New Jerusalem and rule by the saints. A purged Parliament passed bills abolishing the monarchy as 'unnecessary, burdensome and dangerous' while also sweeping away the House of Lords as 'useless' Such wild-eyed enthusiasm was not to everybody's taste and, in the quiet prettiness of Magdalene College, Cambridge, the master, Dr Edward Rainbowe, felt unable to compromise his Royalist conscience. He was quickly replaced by one John Sadler, a rising Commonwealth man who, by chance, lived in Salisbury Court. Clearly he had noted his talented young neighbour and, in October 1650, Pepys was entered at Magdalene.

    The curriculum taught to the two thousand undergraduates gathered in the university was already eight hundred years old and was rooted firmly in the methods and outlook favoured by the scholars of the early Middle Ages. It was rigidly concerned with logic and disputation, drew its forms of enquiry from Aristotle and was systematic to a quite extraordinary degree. An undergraduate like Pepys, conscientiously following the course, aspired to an encyclopedic range of knowledge that could be seen as a coherent and interrelated whole. It was not easily acquired. Lectures lasted for an hour and were given between seven and eight in the morning, an uncomfortable and chilly experience which, in the winter months especially, was accompanied by a great deal of coughing and the shuffling of chilblained feet.

    What was learned at lectures was then put to use in disputations: elaborate and highly technical debates between students, which placed considerable demands on verbal dexterity, memory and the handling of complex logical procedures. It was a harsh training. Syllogisms flashed like rapiers as the young men tried to create arguments that would confound their opponents and lead them into admitting that the truth of a proposition was quite the reverse of what they had initially asserted. If such disputations sharpened the wits they also encouraged a rather tiresome contentiousness, but it was the declamation — the formal set speech richly garnished with quotations from the great authors of antiquity — which was designed to train a man to think and write in a style that was smooth, plain, full and masculine. Throughout his life Pepys would be keenly aware of the value of order, system and style. His university studies encouraged this, and that he worked hard is suggested by the fact that he was awarded two college scholarships.

    It is probable that Pepys also acquired another skill at this time. Undergraduates were expected to take certain of their lectures down whole, a practice known as 'diting'. It is hardly surprising that methods of shorthand were much in favour among hard-pressed students, and Pepys's familiarity with Thomas Shelton's popular Tachygraphy probably dates from this period of his life. The alphabet of lines and curves on which Shelton based his system was comparatively simple to use, and by 1635 the university press at Cambridge was issuing the book for a large local market. A competent exponent of Shelton's shorthand, who might well use it for taking down sermons and speeches as well as lectures, would be able to record what he heard at something like a hundred words per minute. Fluency with Shelton's system was to prove enormously useful to Pepys, not only in his later professional work but also in that most secret of projects which ultimately secured his fame — his Diary.

    Life at Cambridge was not just a matter of attending freezing lecture halls and transcribing reams of Aristotelian argument. The influence of a great university is subtly pervasive, providing those receptive to it with attitudes and values altogether more intangible than the ideas specifically taught there. This was clearly so for Pepys. He had come from a London riven with sectarian strife to a seat of learning that placed little value in the severer forms of dogmatism. 'Nothing spoils human nature more than false zeal. The good nature of an heathen is more God-like than the furious zeal of a Christian.' The words of the provost of King's College may have seemed remote to an unknown undergraduate but they represented none the less a poise of mind that many would hanker after as events in England took their increasingly tumultuous course.

    Similarly, the science taught in the university's scholastic curriculum may have seemed pedantic and dry, but contact with his tutor, Samuel Morland, surely gave Pepys some inkling of the new spirit of enquiry that was abroad and in which he too would soon become deeply interested. Morland was a scholar who could as readily invent a calculating machine as research into the history of the Waldensians. Hydrostatics fascinated him, and at various times he was to turn his agile mind to ear trumpets, portable cooking stoves and techniques of espionage, all in the hope of filling his increasingly empty purse. Morland was to return penuriously into Pepys's life but now, on their first acquaintance, he helped introduce the clever if rather narrow youth to the wider vistas of Cambridge thought.

    And, as always, there was music. Pepys came from a musical home, and throughout his life music was the art that, above all, could move him to the fibre of his being. None the less, the Interregnum was not a propitious time. The court, the Church of England and the theatre — all once great centres of musical activity — had been proscribed, and only domestic music-making still flourished. A great deal of music was played at Cambridge, and Pepys certainly had musical friends at the university, for all that he appears to have had no formal instruction in the subject. Like his father, he could play the viol, to which he added such instruments as the violin, the lute, the theorbo and the flageolet. He was a competent sight-reader and was blessed with an acceptable bass-baritone voice. Above all, he adored music for its own sake. 'Music is the thing of the world I love most,' he wrote later. It appealed to his intellectual curiosity and to a spirit that, for all its Puritan self-discipline, was easily, deliciously tempted into pleasure. Beneath the severe surface encouraged by Pepys's homelife ran the deep, sensuous currents of a man whose feelings and sensations were easily stirred.

    Cambridge helped liberate these too. The unofficial curriculum of the university — the contact with young men of his own age — was as fruitful to the growing Pepys as his other university experiences. He was introduced to the city's public houses where he learned to sing 'Full forty times over', which he later described as 'a very lewd song', and on one occasion at least indulged himself so copiously that he staggered back to Magdalene where, in the agony of a hangover, he was admonished in front of the fellows for being scandalously overseen in drink. No doubt his friends encouraged him: Bob Sawyer, the future attorney-general with whom he shared his rooms, Fossan, Hoole, Castle and Nicholson with whom he studied, scholarly Richard Cumberland, and Christopher Anderson, relaxing from his medical studies with a girl when he could win the interest of 'an exceeding pretty lass, right for the sport'. Pepys's own sexual interests surely stirred and dominated his days, but if nothing is known of any encounters he might have had at this time, his fantasy was certainly active and he threw his more sentimental energies into composing a romance. He rediscovered the manuscript of this a decade after abandoning it and 'liked it very well, and wondered a little ... at my vein at that time when I wrote it'.

    Such were Pepys's pleasures as an undergraduate, but Cambridge was not an unclouded horizon, and the most delightful afternoon could bring him up short with his old pain. Sometime during the summer of 1653 Pepys and a group of friends walked over to Aristotle's Well. It was a hot day, they were thirsty, and the cool running water was deliciously inviting. Pepys drank copiously before returning to college where he was suddenly doubled up in agony. It was, as he recognised, the old problem of his stone taking a turn for the worse. Many years later he coolly analysed what had happened. The weight of the water he had drunk that afternoon 'carried after some day's pain the stone out of the kidneys more sensibly through the urethra into the bladder'. Now the discomfort would be frequent and sometimes unbearable.

    Pepys had not only his health to worry about. He graduated in March 1654 and returned to London with no very clear or brilliant prospects before him. Nor did the time seem opportune, for London and the nation at large were once again in the grip of tumultuous events. A year earlier an exasperated Cromwell had marched into the House of Commons and told the members of the Rump Parliament gathered there that 'the Lord has done with you and has chosen other instruments for the carrying on his work.' For seemingly endless months the men who had agreed to the execution of Charles I had prevaricated over reform. Meanwhile, those outside the House who had not lapsed into a sullen acceptance of events — the army especially — agitated ever more furiously for the establishment of a kingdom fit for God's people. Pepys was once again witnessing a capital torn with dissent.

    London showed him what anarchy could mean. The Levellers were demanding that the ordinary soldiers mutiny against their senior officers and seize power in the name of the people. The Diggers argued for a wholesale redistribution of wealth, declaring that the earth was 'a common treasury'. There were fears too of Royalist uprisings in support of the murdered King's son Charles, and terrible disturbances in Ireland. This was a time of bloody conflict. Armed rebellion against the Commonwealth was repressed with the utmost ferocity, while naval victories against the rival Dutch showed England to be 'a new Rome in the west'. Now Cromwell had acted in his own right, acted as some said with 'the spirit ... so upon him, that he was overruled by it; and he consulted not with flesh and blood at all'. He wanted an assembly of the godly but, when the Nominated Parliament was elected, it rapidly disintegrated and resigned its power. The army was again the dominant force in the land and it was they who persuaded Cromwell to accept the Protectorship of the country and embody executive power in his own person.

(Continues...)

THE MONK WHO VANISHED
A Celtic Mystery

By Peter Tremayne

St. Martin's Minotaur

Copyright © 1999 Peter Tremayne. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Stephen Coote was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge and at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of John Keats, W.B. Yeats, and Royal Survivor: The Life of Charles II.

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